Archives For K-Rudd

It feels like a long time since I’ve written about gay marriage. It feels like a long time since I’ve written about Kevin Rudd. It feels like a long time since I’ve written about the ACL. It feels like a long time since I’ve written about anything much. But here goes…

The “Current” Background

The gay marriage debate is firing up again because the Australian Greens are going to introduce a bill to parliament. The bill is, at this point, destined to fail, because while the Labor party has given its members a conscience vote, the opposition is keeping their members in lock-step with their pre-election commitments on marriage. Kevin Rudd, a Christian politician, has decided to vote in favour of an amendment to the marriage act. The Australian Christian Lobby has said something dumb and inflammatory in response.

The Background on K-Rudd

Kevin Rudd is Australia’s former Prime Minister. He was knifed and unceremoniously dumped from the job by his deputy and a bunch of “faceless men”… Though he sits on the political left he’s been something of a darling to the Christian Right, because he is a politician who takes his faith seriously. Read his Bonhoeffer Essay published in Australia’s high brow “intellectual” mag, The Monthly in October 2006. Before he was Prime Minister.

I’m not a huge fan of Rudd’s. He often seems robotic and calculated. But I respect him – his approach to political campaigning was positive and refreshing, and he is a man of principle – sticking to his word in a recent leadership coup even though it cost him hugely. But I do like the thoughtfulness he applies to the question of the relationship between church and state. This is from the Bonhoeffer essay linked above:

“For its first three centuries, Christianity had represented an active counterculture, but what was to be Christianity’s message in a new age in which the church had become culturally dominant? This became the continuing challenge of Christianity in the Christian West for the subsequent 1500 years.

Over the last 200 years, however, we have seen an entirely different debate arise, as Christianity has sought to come to terms with a rising and increasingly rampant secularism. The impact of independent scientific enquiry, the increasing impact of secular humanism itself, combined with the pervasive influence of modernism and postmodernism, have had the cumulative effect of undermining the influence of the mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches across the West.

Where this will lead, as Christianity enters its third millennium, remains to be seen. But there are signs of Christianity seeing itself, and being seen by others, as a counterculture operating within what some have called a post-Christian world. In some respects, therefore, Christianity, at least within the West, may be returning to the minority position it occupied in the earliest centuries of its existence. But whether or not we conclude that Christianity holds a minority or a majority position within Western societies, that still leaves unanswered the question of how any informed individual Christian (or Christians combined in the form of an organised church) should relate to the state.”

Here’s Rudd’s conclusion for how Christians should engage in the political process:

“I argue that a core, continuing principle shaping this engagement should be that Christianity, consistent with Bonhoeffer’s critique in the ’30s, must always take the side of the marginalised, the vulnerable and the oppressed.”

He says, a bit later:

“The function of the church in all these areas of social, economic and security policy is to speak directly to the state: to give power to the powerless, voice to those who have none, and to point to the great silences in our national discourse where otherwise there are no natural advocates.”

He identifies five approaches that Christians take to politics.

1. Vote for me because I’m a Christian.

“This is the model that is most repugnant. It is the model which says that, simply on the basis of my external profession of the Christian faith, those of similar persuasion should vote for me.”

2. Vote for me because I’m a morally conservative Christian and tick the right boxes on your sexual morality tests.

These tests tend to emphasise questions of sexuality and sexual behaviour. I see very little evidence that this pre-occupation with sexual morality is consistent with the spirit and content of the Gospels. For example, there is no evidence of Jesus of Nazareth expressly preaching against homosexuality. In contrast, there is considerable evidence of the Nazarene preaching against poverty and the indifference of the rich.

3. Vote for me because I’m a morally conservative Christian and I’m into family values.

4. Combine all of these, but then respond negatively when someone suggests there might be a political position to be taken on economic policy, not just moral policy.

5. Believe the gospel is both a political and social gospel.

In other words, the Gospel is as much concerned with the decisions I make about my own life as it is with the way I act in society. It is therefore also concerned with how in turn I should act, and react, in relation to the state’s power. This view derives from the simple principle that the Gospel which tells humankind that they must be born again is the same Gospel which says that at the time of the Great Judgement, Christians will be asked not how pious they have been but instead whether they helped to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the lonely. In this respect, the Gospel is an exhortation to social action. Does this mean that the fundamental ethical principles provide us with an automatic mathematical formula for determining every item of social, economic, environmental, national-security and international-relations policy before government? Of course not. What it means is that these matters should be debated by Christians within an informed Christian ethical framework.

K-Rudd and I share a vehement rejection of approaches 1-4. We both think there’s a roll for Christians to play in advocating for the voiceless, not lobbying for our own special interests. There’s a pretty obvious dig at the approach the Australian Christian Lobby (not to be confused with the Australian Cat Ladies) takes to politics in this article.

But fundamentally, though I will agree with our former Prime Minister on the wide ranging implications for the gospel on how we conceive of politics, ethics, and society, I don’t think he’s really grasped the magnitude of how the Gospel’s content –  the crucified Lord who calls us to take up our cross, follow him, and die to self – the qualities he so admires in Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the gospel at a social and political level – applies to the moral and sexual sphere of the Christian life. Jesus is Lord over sexual morality, just as he is Lord over workplace relations policy.

Which leads me to the current situation…

Kevin Rudd’s changing opinion on Gay Marriage

Kevin Rudd has applied this rubric for the relationship between church and state to the question of gay marriage, and arrived at this conclusion (posted on his blog overnight):

I have come to the conclusion that church and state can have different positions and practices on the question of same sex marriage. I believe the secular Australian state should be able to recognise same sex marriage. I also believe that this change should legally exempt religious institutions from any requirement to change their historic position and practice that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. For me, this change in position has come about as a result of a lot of reflection, over a long period of time, including conversations with good people grappling with deep questions of life, sexuality and faith.

I’ve suggested in the past that this is, I think, the way forward in a secular democracy (short of the government simply legislating civil unions for everybody). I’m sure there are good natural arguments (ie non-Christian arguments) against gay marriage. I’m not sure those arguments are “marriage is for making children”… That would seem to rule out a greater purpose for marriage for people who know they are infertile, or people who are elderly. Which will, no doubt, bring me to the ACL. Shortly.

Lets parse the problems with Rudd’s statement from the Christian side of the ledger – rather than the political side. He’s making a potentially correct political decision, given the system he operates in, from incorrect theology. Incorrect theology that is there in the Bonhoeffer thing. If Jesus can’t make claims over our sexuality – our “natural” state – then he’s no Lord at all. He calls us to come and die in every area of our life. Including our natural, hard-wired, sexual urges.

Here’s Rudd’s narrative.

“One Saturday morning in Canberra, some weeks ago, a former political staffer asked to have a coffee. This bloke, who shall remain nameless, is one of those rare finds among political staffers who combines intelligence, integrity, a prodigious work ethic, and, importantly, an unfailing sense of humour in the various positions he has worked in around Parliament House. Necessary in contemporary politics, otherwise you simply go stark raving mad.

And like myself, this bloke is a bit of a god-botherer (aka Christian). Although a little unlike myself, he is more of a capital G God-Botherer. In fact, he’s long been active in his local Pentecostal Church.

Over coffee, and after the mandatory depressing discussion about the state of politics, he tells me that he’s gay, he’s told his pastor (who he says is pretty cool with it all, although the same cannot be said of the rest of the church leadership team) and he then tells me that one day he’d like to get married to another bloke. And by the way, “had my views on same sex marriage changed?”.”

So, to recap, for those who skip over quotes, a staffer Rudd respects, a Christian, is gay and wants to marry a man. So Rudd has had a rethink on his opposition to gay marriage.

Very few things surprise me in life and politics anymore. But I must confess the Pentecostal staffer guy threw me a bit. And so the re-think began, once again taking me back to first principles. First, given that I profess to be a Christian (albeit not a particularly virtuous one) and given that this belief informs a number of my basic views; and given that I am given a conscience vote on these issues; then what constitutes for me a credible Christian view of same sex marriage, and is such a view amenable to change? Second, irrespective of what that view might be, do such views have a proper place in a secular state, in a secular definition of marriage, or in a country where the census tells us that while 70% of the population profess a religious belief, some 70% of marriages no longer occur in religious institutions, Christian or otherwise.

These are the two questions.

He starts to move the goalposts a little on the “Christian view” thing by playing the “literalist” card. Now. I’m a Biblical Literalist. I do not think it means what Rudd think it means, or what many extreme Biblical Literalists think it means. I think Biblical literalism means reading a text in its context, trying to understand what the author literally meant, and in part that comes from understanding what the original audience would understand something to literally mean.

“In fact if we were today to adhere to a literalist rendition of the Christian scriptures, the 21st century would be a deeply troubling place, and the list of legitimized social oppressions would be disturbingly long.”

This is a purely speculative begged question – and it ignores the contribution to the 21st century made by Bonhoeffer’s contribution to the 20th century. He also throws Wilberforce under a bus. It’ll surprise Wilberforce to one day learn that people considered he was ignoring the plain meaning of the Bible when he opposed slavery.

Here’s Rudd’s guide to reading the Bible.

The Bible also teaches us that people should be stoned to death for adultery (which would lead to a veritable boom in the quarrying industry were that still the practice today). The same for homosexuals. And the biblical conditions for divorce are so strict that a woman could be beaten within an inch of her life and still not be allowed to legally separate.
The point is that nobody in the mainstream Christian Church today would argue any of these propositions. A hundred years ago, that was not necessarily the case. In other words, the definition of Christian ethics is subject to change, based on analysis of the historical context into which the biblical writers were speaking at the time, and separating historical context from timeless moral principles, such as the injunction to “love your neighbour as yourself”.
Nobody in the mainstream church has argued for stoning adulterers, with any credibility, since Jesus stopped the angry mob stoning an adulteress, or since Jesus met a divorced, adulterous, Samaritan woman at the well. The very model of the oppressed whom Bonhoeffer says we should be looking out for – and Jesus claims to be the promised king of the Old Testament and doesn’t stone her. Clearly the plain reading of the Old Testament, so far as Jesus was concerned – and he’s better positioned to read it than we are, as a Jew, and as God.
Christian ethics aren’t subject to change. Christian ethics are the ethics of the cross. It’s not just “love your neighbour” – Christian ethics are a call to deny yourself and to love your enemy.
Rudd presents such an anemic view of Christian ethics here that it’s not surprising his conclusion is theologically incoherent.
The call for all people who follow Jesus is that we die to self, die to our desire to base our identity on our sexual orientation – gay, straight, bi, or otherwise – there is no unbroken sexual orientation – and if we do want to pursue sexual intimacy, regardless of orientation, Jesus affirms the traditional view of marriage.
Here’s a thing Jesus says when he also shows that K-Rudd is wrong about divorce.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Some people won’t have sex because being part of the Kingdom of God calls them to that. We’re really bad at acknowledging that category, culturally, and in our church.  I suspect singleness would be much easier if we were better at looking out for those who are single. So that it’s not a cross they bear alone.

Anyway.

It’s hard not to read this following bit in the light of his conversation with his friend – and suspect that it underpins his theological move.

“Which brings us back to same sex marriage. I for one have never accepted the argument from some Christians that homosexuality is an abnormality. People do not choose to be gay. The near universal findings of biological and psychological research for most of the post war period is that irrespective of race, religion or culture, a certain proportion of the community is born gay, whether they like it or not. Given this relatively uncontested scientific fact, then the following question that arises is should our brothers and sisters who happen to be gay be fully embraced as full members of our wider society? The answer to that is unequivocally yes, given that the suppression of a person’s sexuality inevitably creates far greater social and behavioural abnormalities, as opposed to its free and lawful expression. “

Rudd’s statement would be heaps better if he just said: “We are a secular democracy, and people in our secular democracy desire something, and the only good reason not to appears to come from a religious understanding of the thing.” By trying to play theologian he has left himself a little open to criticism.

The Bible says that humanity is born sinful. That we’re born with a natural propensity to sin. It shouldn’t be a huge jump for Christian theology to acknowledge that homosexuality is natural – it’s only a problem if we think our nature is a pristine, untainted, God honouring canvas. The image we bear of God in Genesis 1 is broken in Genesis 3.

Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15), and calls people to come and die. Like he did. But if you’re not coming and dying then I am not so sure you can be called not to base your identity on anything you want – including your sexuality. Including defining your relationships using the word “marriage.” That’s why Rudd should have left the theology alone and just gone with the politics. He’s better at that.

Rudd moves from the theological point to the argument from nature about children needing a mother and father. I believe that in the ideal circumstances this is true (though I’m sympathetic to the idea that an emotionally healthy child needs much more than just a mother and a father – who love them sacrificially, they need a “village”). But I also, like Rudd, believe that we’re a long way from the ideal.

“Which brings us to what for some time has been the sole remaining obstacle in my mind on same sex marriage – namely any unforeseen consequences for children who would be brought up by parents in a same sex married relationship, as against those brought up by parents in married or de-facto heterosexual relationships, by single parents, or by adoptive or foster parents, or other legally recognised parent or guardian relationships. The care, nurture and protection of children in loving relationships must be our fundamental concern. And this question cannot be clinically detached from questions of marriage – same sex or opposite sex. The truth is that in modern Australia approximately 43 per cent of marriages end in divorce, 27 per cent of Australian children are raised in one parent, blended or step-family situations, and in 2011-12 nearly 50,000 cases of child abuse were substantiated by the authorities of more than 250,000 notifications registered. In other words, we have a few problems out there.

That does not mean, by some automatic corollary, that children raised in same sex relationships are destined to experience some sort of nirvana by comparison. But scientific surveys offer important indications. One of the most comprehensive surveys of children raised in same sex relationships is the US National Longitudinal Survey conducted since 1986 – 1992 (and still ongoing) on adolescents raised by same sex partners. This survey, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics in 2010, concluded that there were no Child Behaviour Checklist differences for these kids as against the rest of the country”

These longitudinal studies are interesting. I do wonder what the results would look like if you reverse engineered the ideal parenting situation from the outcome of parenting. If you asked a bunch of successful and emotionally healthy adults about their background – if you didn’t take a broad cross section to measure against the average, but selected some sort of high achievement criterion. Maybe that study is out there somewhere. But anyway, Rudd makes the point that the horse has already bolted on this front…

“Either as a result of previous opposite-sex relationships, or through existing state and territory laws making assisted reproduction, surrogacy, adoption and fostering legally possible for same sex couples or individuals in the majority of Australian states and territories. Furthermore, Commonwealth legislation has already recognised the legal rights of children being brought up in such relationships under the terms of Australian family law.”

One thing I do appreciate is the tone Rudd has brought to the debate – he acknowledges that this is his opinion, and that people, like Julia Gillard, will use their own consciences and reasons to develop their own convictions. This is what life in a democracy is about.

So good on him for that.

Which brings me to the ACL.

The ACL is apparently indignant that a back bench MP would dare exercise his right to conscience. They’ve taken a leaf from the Greens, their political nemesis, in comparing this policy decision to the stolen generation.

Here’s Christine Milne’s impassioned statement about a recent asylum seeker decision.

“In 10, 15, 20 years when there is a national apology to the children detained indefinitely in detention for the sole, supposed crime of seeking a better life in our country because they are running away for persecution with their families, not one of you will be able to stand up and say “Oh we didn’t, oh, it was the culture of the period.”

That’s a nice piece of rhetoric – but it’ll only take so long before this becomes the Australian equivalent of Godwin’s Law. The ACL is working on it…

Here’s the title of their Media Release.

Rudd’s change on marriage sets up a new stolen generation

Really?

Do go on.

The Prime Minister who rightly gave an apology to the stolen generation has sadly not thought through the fact that his new position on redefining marriage will create another.

Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said Kevin Rudd’s overnight change of mind on redefining marriage ignored the consequence of robbing children of their biological identity through same-sex surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies.

“What Kevin Rudd has failed to consider is that marriage is a compound right to form a family. Marriage is not just an affectionate relationship between two people regardless of gender.

I’m sympathetic to this argument. I’m just not sure it’s a particularly Christian argument. It’s a politically conservative argument based on concepts of personhood that admittedly come from the Christian tradition. But it doesn’t seem particularly informed by the person of Jesus. The Jews could own this position.

This is a nice call to take the question of the raising of children away from selfishness:

“What Mr Rudd has not considered is whether or not it is right for children to be taken through technology from their biological parent so that ‘married’ same-sex couples can fulfil their desires.”

This objection is just weird. I would hope that given the sexual health issues in the homosexual community we would want some sort of education to happen to prevent these issues (oh wait, the ACL has form in this area on sexual health billboards, and with those smoking claims).

Mr Shelton said Mr Rudd had also ignored the fact that this inevitably means parents will have their children taught the mechanics of homosexual sex in school sex education classes, something that would surely follow the redefinition of marriage.

Here’s a little case of adopting the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mantra while trying to have one’s cake and eat it too. Read the heading of this media release again, and then read this rebuke…

“The so-called ‘marriage equality’ debate has been conducted by slogans without proper consideration of the consequences. Kevin Rudd is the latest to fall victim to shallow thinking on this issue,” Mr Shelton said.

The ACL is disappointed in Rudd – not primarily because his theological account of sexuality misrepresents the Gospel. But because. Umm. Marriage.

“Mr Rudd’s announcement that he supports same sex marriage will be a huge disappointment for Christians and leaves their hopes for the preservation of marriage clearly with the Coalition and Christian-based minor parties.

Oh. And because it’s bad politics because it doesn’t protect the bigger minority from the smaller…

“No government has the right to create these vulnerabilities for the church-going twenty per cent of the population in order to allow the point two per cent who will take advantage of this to redefine marriage,” he said.

And now Christians won’t vote for him. Because the ACL speaks for Christians.

“Mr Rudd seems intent on burning bridges not only with colleagues, but with a constituency which had long given him the benefit of the doubt,” Mr Shelton said.

Something is either true and demands our support, or not. The truth doesn’t change with popular opinion, to which he is now saying he seems to be responding.”

“If this is an attempt to wedge Julia Gillard, it will cost Mr Rudd the last of his following in the Christian Constituency,” Mr Shelton said.

And finally. When it comes to the question of the theological stuff, where you might expect something related to the gospel, we get another statement that the Australian Sharia Law Lobby would be happy to sign up to if we changed “Christian teaching” to “God’s Law”.

His views on homosexuality and changing the definition of marriage are not in line with orthodox Christian teaching.

“All major Australian church denominations officially oppose same sex marriage and over 50 of Australia’s most prominent church and denominational leaders signed a statement against it in August 2011.”

The ACL is playing the game that K-Rudd pointed out is a problematic game for Christians in his Monthly article. Jesus calls us to come and die. He calls us to die to our sexual desires in order to submit to his Lordship. That’s where Kevin goes wrong. The ACL goes wrong not because they think Jesus is only interested in our sexuality – they’re trying to speak out for children too. Clearly. Or they wouldn’t use such dumb headings. They go wrong when they try to make Jesus the Lord of petty politics. On the one hand the ACL’s Lyle Shelton says “things are either true or they aren’t” and on the other he argues against certain courses of action because the political numbers are bad. Their whole model is broken.

Christians don’t take up our cross by railing against the political empire – for starters, the political empire put Jesus to death. Or by playing the political game as though might makes right. There’s not much of a theology of the cross being displayed in the ACL’s statement.

K-Rudd should have left the theology and focused on the politics. The ACL should have left out the politics and focused on the theology (Jesus). Church and state should listen to each other. Especially when everyone is claiming they’re trying to follow Jesus. If you want to do politics like Jesus you’ve got to do politics shaped by the cross. If you want to speak theology about politics you’ve got to show how your theology relates to the cross. If you want to speak as Christians about politics why would you not speak of politics in the light of the cross?

Jesus’ pitch is the same for everybody. It’s not just about the poor, or about social justice – we’re all oppressed. We’re all broken. We all need intervention.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt 16).

K-Rudd looks set to have another tilt at the lodge. Which, for non-Australians, is where the Prime Minister of Australia lives.

I’d rather the Labor party just install Bill Shorten. He seems eloquent and clever. Or Tanya Plibersek. I think I’d consider voting Labor if there was a Shorten/Plibersek ticket.

K-Rudd was a control freak, and just as power hungry as Gillard. And he eats ear wax… it’s the result of some bizarre hagiographic redaction, and the sour taste his public knifing left in our mouth, that gives him his position in the polls. Partly I think the electorate relishes the chance to turf him out democratically.

J-Gill is just awful. A political experiment gone wrong. She can’t get anything right, and clearly moves in whatever direction is popular on the issues she doesn’t care about – so she’s strong on climate change and education, but is about to change her position on the definition of marriage (if the papers today are anything to go by).

Here’s what I think he should do when he inevitably loses his challenge next week, or whenever it happens. Instead of moving to the backbenches, he should move to the cross benches, with whatever Labor supporters feel strongly enough about ousting Gillard. He should do a Katter, and start his own party. And he should trigger a double dissolution. Leave the party in a huff. And write his memoirs.

He can’t win from here. His party hates him. He doesn’t seem to have the requisite support. If he resigns his seat there’s every chance the power grabbers in the Labor party will find some way to hold on in a messy hung parliament. So crossing the floor seems like his best option for making waves for Julia, who he clearly dislikes.

The other mob across the floor aren’t much better, Tony Abbott is a walking cliche/soundbite/bad visual pun. We should probably just draft Peter Costello or Paul Keating back into the top job. At least those guys had a bit of character and some sense of an ideology beyond the endless pursuit of staying in power and beating the other guys.

That is all.

Some people should learn to keep their mouths shut. A few years back Danny Naliah had much of Australian Christendom on his side when he spoke out against Islam and fell foul of Australia’s religious vilification laws… free speech is important. But it seems he has a desire to walk around as a test case. Here’s his idiot filled statement about the Queensland floods.

“Around 8pm on Friday night the 7th of January we had a strong prompting by the Holy Spirit to repent on behalf of Australia. As we started doing so, I was reminded that every time America went against Israel, there was disaster in the land and this has been documented over the years.

Then at once I was reminded of Kevin Rudd speaking against Israel in Israel on 14th December 2010.  It is very interesting that Kevin Rudd is from QLD.  Is God trying to get our attention?  Yes,  I believe so.

Also the Lord said to us, “ I will humble Australia and bring her down on her knees. As she has taken pride in my blessing, and man has taken the glory and not given it to Me”.”

Idiot.

Apparently the floods are God’s punishment of K-Rudd for speaking against Israel. This is the same guy who said the bushfires were God punishing Victoria.

I wonder what he’s going to do if New South Wales goes under. And you’ve got to wonder what these people did wrong (using his thinking).

Here’s what Jesus said about people in natural disasters (from Luke 13) as quoted last time Naliah opened his stupid mouth…

1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sac­ri­fices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sin­ners than all the other Galileans because they suf­fered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all per­ish. 4Or those eigh­teen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the oth­ers liv­ing in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all per­ish.””

Don’t be one of those classless Christians who meets people’s grief with talk of judgment. I’ve seen murmurings like that from friends on Facebook. And I don’t like it. Sure. Judgment is part of the broken world we live in. Be one of those Christians who meets grief with love, and the promise of hope in Jesus.

That is all.

So, three days to go. Or something. The Libs launched their latest attack ad today. A timely reminder that J-Gill knifed K-Rudd.

I think it’s bizarre. They list all these facts about Julia. She ousted the PM with the help of the NSW Right. She’s borrowing lots of money. She has been involved in some dumb policies. And KEVIN RUDD DOESN’T TRUST HER.

That’s their clincher. Who’d have thought?

Is being trusted by Kevin Rudd key to being elected?

I Write Like is a cool little online tool that compares your writing style to famous people.

I write like
George Orwell

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Knowing how you write like is only half the fun, what about how other people write like…

The Townsville Bulletin writes like:
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech was written like:
David Foster Wallace

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

His farewell speech was more like a tech blogger:

Kevin Rudd writes like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Who do you write like?

Any leader of any country has reached their used-by date when parodies are indistinguishable from the real thing. Once comics have a suitable amount of material it becomes very hard to look at the leader without the parody running through your head. This video, from last year’s Walkley Awards, surely signalled the beginning of the end for K-Rudd.

Sadly, despite the 12th Man’s efforts, Bill Lawry still commentates.

Rudd and Theology

Nathan Campbell —  June 26, 2010

Oh yeah… and while I’m on the subject of Rudd bowing out of the Prime Ministership… I’ve said before that Rudd likes hitching his wagon to whatever engine is driving past at the time… but who did he think he was pleasing when he paused for his moment of theologising when he tacked “or her” on the end of thanking God… it was looking so good up until that moment – a loser thanking God, which helpfully combats every winning sporting superstar who claims God gave them victory as though he’s in their sports bag… bowing out with grace… but “or her”? What? How can “or her” be referred to as “our father”? Bonhoeffer would be rolling in his grave. Maybe he was caught up in the moment – seeing Gillard’s siezing the throne as divine. Maybe when he said “theology” he meant “self reflection” and his God complex was catching up with his loss of power? I don’t know. But it was dumb.

New PM

Nathan Campbell —  June 26, 2010

It would be somewhat remiss of me not to comment briefly on our new PM. Congratulations to Ms Gillard for making history and all that…

By my reckoning she’s the first “ranga” PM, the first female PM, the first challenger to oust a sitting PM in their first term, the stager of the fastest bloodless coup in history and the PM with the best hairstyle (which I put down to having a hair stylist for a partner).

Surely everybody saw this coming from the moment Rudd and Gillard formed an uneasy relationship as leader and deputy. K-Rudd’s love-hate relationship with the Australian public and the ALP respectively came to an end in a pretty abrupt moment. Labor has form for ousting elected political leaders in favour of party apparatchiks. It’s not uncommon for the party to foist premiers upon the unwilling denizens of our states – and Channel 10 are about to remind us that it’s all to typical of Labor at a Federal level as well – with its docu-drama Hawke. Labor does anything to hold on to power – even sacrificing one of its own, even if its own happens to be the most popular PM ever – who ousted the PM they loathed.

Rudd’s problem was his chalk and cheese relationship with those around him – the voters, who knew him not, loved him. His party, and any members of the opposition who knew him, reserved incredible disdain for the man. In my former role I dealt with pollies and political pundits, I shared a desk briefly with the PMs infamous chief of staff (as he phoned through some interview transcripts). Of all the people I’ve met, and of everything I’ve read, the impression I get is that Rudd operated with a veneer of courtesy which covered over a multitude of flaws and sins. His outbursts of rage – now common knowledge – were apparently typical of his treatment of those in his way. David Marr’s fascinating political obituary shows where he went wrong.

He had to do everything himself. He couldn’t trust and didn’t delegate. He worked his staff ruthlessly. His temper was formidable. The office operated in a strange atmosphere of rush and delay. Everything happened at the last minute, more often than not to suit the next media hit. This didn’t change when he became PM. While he rode high in the polls it hardly mattered. His party accepted Rudd’s demands for near absolute control. Cabinet was reduced to a shadow of itself.

Part of the problem was Rudd’s old ambition to find decent solutions to the nation’s problems. Decency is personal, intuitive, hard to delegate. Marry that to a sense of indispensability that is right off the Richter scale, and you had a recipe for ruin. Once again, Rudd had enemies everywhere.

Rudd is what happens when ruthless efficiency meets the intention to do good things. His motives were pure but his methods were not.

I couldn’t figure out where Abbott was for the first 24 hours of the coup. Had he come out strongly against Labor and the murky backroom operations of the factions and the unions Gillard’s political nose may have been bloodied from the opening moments of her ascension to power, instead, Labor get a bit of a bump in the polls.

The reaction amongst my Facebook friends was interesting – most seem unhappy with the manner in which Rudd was dismissed, happy to see the back of him, and split on the question of whether Gillard’s hair colour or gender was more historic. Having had the chance to see which way most of my friends swing politically in the last few days I’m struck by what a conservative batch they are. Maybe I’ll vote ALP just to be contrarian…

What I can’t understand is Gillard’s appeal. She seems merciless. She’s the most extremely left wing PM we’ve ever had. And she sounds like a character from Kath and Kim.

The Labor PR machine was impressive. Every Labor talking head, from union bosses to exiled former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie (speaking from Wyoming), had their talking points in order. They praised her as a “strong and decisive figure,” “a born leader,” “an excellent communicator,” and the person who would get Labor’s focus back on the big issues. And each person mentioned the same issues. This was all impressively “on message.”

Possibly my favourite part of the post-coup coverage was Crikey’s collection of photoshopped versions of Julia Gillard (henceforth J-Gill) in the situations she said were more likely than her challenging K-Rudd.
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Apparently political leadership is all about unity. Unity is much easier when there’s a common cause involved – particularly a cause of value, or one that people can unite to believe in.

Tony Abbott doesn’t really get it. In a manifesto on his political leadership he suggests being in opposition successfully is about being in opposition.

Mr Abbott said he would work to bring the party together because it’s easier to manage a party when they oppose rather than negotiate with the government.

“The best way to unite a political party is to really go after your opponents, which is what I intend to do,” he told the Nine Network today.”

I disagree. I think the electorate does too.

Successful “opposition” doesn’t depend on disagreeing with everything the Government puts forward.

K-Rudd started getting traction with the electorate when he positioned himself as the “alternative Prime Minister” and his party as the “alternative government”… I got so sick of hearing those words before the last Federal election was announced – but mostly because I didn’t like K-Rudd and I could see a correlation between those words and his boost in the polls.

Real leadership means offering policies and informed, decisive alternatives. Not just saying “they’re wrong” as loud as you can.

Peter Costello has a column in today’s SMH detailing his problems with Turnbull’s approach to leadership.

He acknowledged some strengths of his methodology. But diagnosed the problem with Turnbull’s leadership as an inability to cultivate much needed unity.

“To promote unity, Turnbull needed to give all the shades of party opinion a say in proceedings, and to promote colleagues on merit regardless of whether they voted for or against him.”

“A political leader cannot take his base for granted. He must give voice and confidence to the party membership. Australian politics is detribalising. Rusted-on supporters are fewer than ever. To keep those supporters, a party must nourish and respect them.”

Costello seems to think Turnbull was unable to cultivate unity because he was a grasping power monger climbing above his station. He’s particularly scathing on Turnbull’s public statements about Liberal Party colleagues.

I have never seen a Liberal leader attack senior colleagues in the way Turnbull did on the weekend. Turnbull’s attacks have been sharper and inflicted more damage on his colleagues than Kevin Rudd ever did.

If I was running the Labor Party’s campaign in the seemingly inevitable double dissolution election I would be rubbing my hands at the prospect of ads just featuring quotes from Liberal Party members about other Liberal Party members.

Don Watson on Rudd Speak

Nathan Campbell —  November 18, 2009

There’s a great interview transcript on the ABC website featuring author and speechwriter Don Watson.

Here’s his plea to the PM…

I think he really ought to see it as one of his responsibilities to use the language as it’s meant to be used. I mean he does understand language very well, he knows when and how to use it well, which makes it all the less forgivable that he uses it so tiresomely so often.

Here’s his take on spin.

They just send us messages, and they call it spin, you know, which look if it was spin it would be fantastic, I wouldn’t mind it. Spin sort of suggests something mesmerising. This isn’t spin it’s anaesthetic. It’s like a big cloud of gas that comes over and makes cutting your toenails look interesting.

Spin gets a bit of a bad wrap. Everybody spins. Some people just declare it more than others. Here’s an example of how spin can be helpful, not dishonest.

Fact: Townsville is not widely known as a holiday destination.
Bad Spin: Nobody goes to Townsville for a holiday.
Good Spin: Townsville is an undiscovered and emerging holiday destination.

Both statements say essentially the same thing. One is more likely to get people to consider a holiday in Townsville.

The non-apology apology

Nathan Campbell —  October 28, 2009

Annabel Crabb has picked up on one of K-Rudd’s favourite current communication tools. The unapologetic apology.

These are traditionally expressed in the form of “I make no apology for x” – where x is something good.

She gives the following lesson for those looking to emulate the PM.

First, you take a principle or proposition of which the listener is odds-on to approve.

Caring for puppies, let’s say.

Then you profess to uphold that principle “unapologetically”.

“I am an unapologetic supporter of puppies.”

This first endears you to the listener, and affirms their own views. But the use of the term “unapologetically” does something else, too.

It implicitly suggests that the listener is part – along with you – of a small but courageous minority.

If you can successfully master this little trick the results are a foregone conclusion…

“By the time you are finished, you and your listener are brothers-in-arms, visionaries swimming bravely against the tide of a brutal orthodoxy.”

The only good toy cat…

Nathan Campbell —  October 25, 2009

Sadly, as far as I can tell, this isn’t a real toy but a work of art.

I found this particular dead cat at BoingBoing.

I would buy one, I’d also buy some of the previously featured roadkill toys that are sold on this website.

Splodge the hedgehog is great for those people hanging out for the results of my pathos laden letter to K-Rudd. He’s also great for those people wanting to traumatise their children with a plush toy. And he’s completely consistent with my own experiences with the Australian echidna

Name and shame

Nathan Campbell —  October 23, 2009

It turns out that nominal determinism has something to it…

A news story reporting on a study of school performance in Germany reports what anybody who has read Freakonomics already knows. Names can cause all sorts of dramas.

The Freakonomics blog linked to this news story which explained a little bit about why all the staff are deserting the PM’s office.

“The name Kevin was perceived as being linked to especially poor behaviour and performance, with one study participant even writing that, “Kevin is not a name – it’s a diagnosis!””

This is a German study so these names don’t look like orthodox Australian names – but the study of 2,000 teachers found that people with normal names turn out better.

“The study reveals that the names traditional names such as Charlotte, Sophie, Marie, Hannah, Alexander, Maximilian, Simon, Lukas and Jakob are consistently linked to strong performance and good behaviour. Non-traditional names such as Chantal, Mandy, Angelina, Kevin, Justin and Maurice, on the other hand, are associated with weak performance and bad behaviour.”

Robobama

Nathan Campbell —  October 3, 2009

And we worry that K-Rudd might be robotic. Check out the amazing consistency of Obama’s smile.

Barack Obama’s amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

The union war

Nathan Campbell —  September 4, 2009

K-Rudd has declared an end to the History Wars that crippling battle for supremacy between Australia’s academic elite… but there’s one philosophical battle between the elite and the working class that will not be ended by Prime Ministerial decree…

We’re flying to Brisbane this weekend. We’re heading south for a Rugby match. Of all the things to head south for… I don’t really like Rugby. But Robyn does. So we’re going to watch Australia play South Africa.

Robyn really likes Rugby. She owns a number of jerseys and actually understands the rules enough to yell at the ref about an infringement before he gives a penalty. This is what marriage is about.

But, so that my protest is recorded for posterities sake – here are three areas where Rugby League is clearly the superior game…

  1. Pointscoring – the union point scoring matrix is messed up. It discourages attacking play. Union can not hope to be a spectacle while a penalty goal is worth more than half an unconverted try. There is no incentive to chance your arm for a try when you can do half the work and score more than half the points. Drop goals are also significantly overvalued. If Union swallowed its pride and adopted League’s point scoring methodology attack would be suitably rewarded.
  2. Penalties – Penalty goals are only such an issue because penalties are so common. Seriously. Is there anything in Union that you’re actually allowed to do? Every time the ref watches the play closely he blows his whistle and the team in possession boots the ball between the posts.
  3. Scrums – The claim by Union fans that I find most risible is that their scrums are superior to those used in League. Contested, yes, superior, no. 98% of scrums contested in a Union test are packed more than once, 65% result in penalties. 12% result in wins against the feed (I made these stats up). They’re just as pointless as the scrums in league – it’s like a coin toss to see whether the attacking side gets a penalty or has to stand around in a hemorrhoid inducing group hug.

But I’m a good husband. So I’ll go along without pointing out too many of these areas.