Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rugby, Gays, Ignorance and Enlightenment

I recommend reading an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about a sleight concerning gays by a football champion, the liberating words of a former high court judge, and how one sports journalist found freedom about his sexual orientation.  The reader's comments are also worth looking at as they reflect a diversity of views, including the old fundamentalist, blinkered viewpoints.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Forbidden Fruit

Check out 2009 Finnish movie, 'Forbidden Fruit'.  The movie can be downloaded and/or purchased as a DVD through various websites.

I enjoyed this insightful movie as it epitomised the very theme that I endeavoured to convey in my March 2008 blog, 'Sex Leads to Dancing'.  I hope all of you who have experienced being trapped in religious fundamentalism will find that the end scene of the movie provides you with the impetus to step out of entrapment, face the fear of the unknown and emerge from your cocoon a renewed and liberated human being.  The young actors reminded me of the wonderful enlightenment that I was privileged to enjoy so many years ago and the joys that is has brought me, (even now that I am getting a little older). It is amazing how our world view can be so limited by exposure narrow-minded philosophies that we miss out on the joys that await us in life, especially when young and full of creative energy.  Let the light shine in and the dancing begin!

Forbidden Fruit (Finnish: Kielletty hedelmä) is a 2009 Finnish drama film directed by Dome Karukoski. The film is about two teenage girls from a Conservative Laestadian community. The girls travel to Helsinki where they meet other people of their age and learn about their lifestyle that differs greatly from the girls' religious way of life. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Religious Fundamentalism - Gays Beware!

In my last blog I put the question to readers, "What is the primary cause of the underlying anti-homosexual views in our society?" I suggested the answer was fundamentalist religion, but I did not provide evidence apart from the two individual examples from case-work in the area of forensic mental health. I will endeavour to rectify this omission with the following clearly defined case where a religious leader has unequivocally expressed his views about homosexuality.

A good example of fundamentalist rhetoric about homosexuality is expressed by Loren Cunningham, the founder and former director of Youth With A Mission, or YWAM as it is generally known. He makes the following statement in his book, 'Making Jesus Lord: The Dynamic Power of Laying Down Your Rights' (YWAM Publishing, 1989 and 1997):

"I have come to the conclusion that the sin of homosexuality--and it is a sin--is not a condition you are born with, but a choice. It is a temptation to people who have been rejected. They have sought for love and are finding it in a counterfeit way, which is lust. In a cruel paradox, rejection leads them to homosexuality, which in turn brings them further rejection from society. And the counterfeit love of homosexuality becomes bondage. Homosexuality is a powerful bondage, but it will never be broken if we as Christians are not able to offer its victims the love and acceptance they were seeking in the first place."

I ask, “What expertise does Mr Cunningham possess to make what may be construed as a damning statement about gay youth, as if it is based in fact?” Particularly in view of his emphatic statement that labels homosexual behaviour as a sin! I remember well being exposed to this the type of judgemental and emotive rhetoric as a child and adolescent, trumpeted by under-educated clergy in the Pentecostal church; the same religious movement from which Mr Cunningham also arises. In respect to such strident views and their potential catastrophic impact on young minds, I suggest that readers might like to investigate the disproportionately high adolescent suicide rate among homosexual individuals, that is probably understated as some sadly take their life prior to ‘coming out’. Rural youth are apparently much more at risk because they are often 'trapped' in closed and narrow-minded country communities where they are likely to feel isolated from gay peers, unsupported and with little means of escape. I wonder if fundamentalist clergy ever consider their role in such tragedy? The following website provides links to reputable academic studies on the subject of gay and lesbian harassment, victimization and suicide:

In view of the dated nature of the publication from which I have quoted Mr Cunningham, I now personally challenge him to revisit this subject in light of recent genetic research (post-2000). This research provides more refined scientific information about the origin of homosexual orientation and should assist in determining if homosexuality is a choice, or not. I was certainly challenged to revisit the subject many years ago when confronted with information that was contradictory to my historical views. Putting it simply it was good secular education, free from the shackles of the church that precipitated my re-socialization, and dare I say ‘enlightenment’. Apart from the role of secular education, my change in thinking also arose out of deciding to drop my religious defensiveness and strive for open-mindedness about the world and universe around me. It was quite a challenge, but a welcome change from remaining trapped in the fog of ignorance that was the domain of my under-educated parents and former church leaders. I highly recommend such a change as we can never reach our human potential without it.

During my now 30 year working life as a mental health professional I have met many young men and women who would gladly have traded their gay orientation for a heterosexual lifestyle, but only as a result of the very societal rejection that Mr Cunningham correctly identifies. However, I disagree with Mr Cunningham’s basic thesis that such rejection leads to a choice of a homosexual lifestyle, as genetic research published in this new millennium certainly supports the alternative notion of a physiological predisposition originating at conception  and/or in utero (and that ain't a choice). Furthermore, Mr Cunningham's idea that pre-dating societal rejection there is a sense of rejection that has its genesis in early individual experience is also without supportive evidence. Perhaps he is referring to familial pathology and/or some type of other childhood trauma as a source of this earlier perceived rejection; the problem is Mr Cunningham does not define what he is specifically talking about, so we are left somewhat in the dark as to exactly what he is proposing. Importantly, while rejection has nothing to do with the genesis of homosexual orientation, it does exist and its destructive force is clearly driven by the views of a narrow-minded society and perhaps equally narrow-minded parents, which in turn are guided by the views of fundamentalist religious leaders such as Mr Cunningham. Views, that in my opinion, are not based on sound scientific consideration, or indeed sound and compassionate theology.

To put it succinctly, suggesting that homosexuals choose their sexual orientation because they have been rejected during childhood is getting things entirely back to front. It flies in the face of more recent research that demonstrate that same-sex orientation comes first. Furthermore, as I have stated, homosexuals are rejected (harassed and victimized) because of the prejudice of general society, driven by ill informed views about human behaviour. It is my opinion that Mr Cunningham simply reinforces such rejection by inferring pre-existing pathology as the genesis of homosexual orientation; that is, he puts forward the idea of a causal prior sense of rejection that is in turn reinforced by societal rejection. What home-spun rubbish!

I can also vouch for the fact that I was present in an audience that heard Mr Cunningham state that he had never seen a homosexual set free from their sexual bondage without release from some type of spiritual influence. I took this to mean demonic influence. His statement in this respect was made when I was attending a YWAM School of Evangelism in the ‘70s. Now whether he believes this spiritual bondage originates in early life when the sense of rejection is flourishing, or after the individual engages in homosexual behaviour is left for us to surmise. Perhaps Mr Cunningham would like to reply to clarify this point. However, regardless of the timing of this hypothesised spiritual influence, in anyone’s understanding such a concept is tantamount to blaming the victim and I think members of the gay community can rightfully be offended by such religious poppycock and pseudo-psychology. However, some may just shrug it off as another example of uninformed religious babbling and get on with living and loving.

Let me go on. If someone is indeed a little different behaviourally and attitudinally as a child because of an innate predisposition to same sex attraction, how can anyone infer that that this somehow leaves them vulnerable to ‘temptation’ that is fundamentally different to the sexual temptation faced by their heterosexual peers, or that it is somehow pathological and their own fault (and therefore a ‘sin’ in the Cunningham sense). And I remind readers that the words, ‘temptation’, ‘lust’ and ‘bondage’ are used by Mr Cunningham in a rather negative genre in the above quote from his book. Can we not say the same thing about us heterosexuals? That is, are we not also vulnerable to sexual ‘temptation’ and ‘lust’ at puberty? May I say that I am personally very glad that I was vulnerable to such human experiences as I have had a jolly good time immersing myself in the joys of good healthy sex during my lifetime! I am also most pleased that I was subjected to ‘bondage’ in respect to my irrepressible attraction to women. And I am sure that Mr Cunningham has been equally attracted to his life mate, who could have just as easily been a man if the genes and environmental variables rolled the other way. In all seriousness however, why focus on such negative interpretations of terms such as “temptation’, ‘lust’ and ‘bondage’ for pity’s sake? Is it just that fundamentalists remain hung up about sexual desire? (See my earlier blog titled, “Beware: Sex Leads to Dancing”).

Let me also state categorically that I have met many a fine individual who is gay and they had little or no pathological rejection or ‘seed of bitterness’ in their background. They also generally had heterosexual siblings who were raised in the very same rejection-free familial environment. Sure, there is ample evidence that some fathers struggle with accepting and bonding to sons who may not be candidates for the football team, but this is another issue; it has nothing to do with creating the predisposition to same sex attraction that generally occurs at conception according to geneticists. And more so, it has nothing to do with generating a vulnerability to ‘temptation’ and ‘lust’ as Mr Cunningham infers, as we are all prone to enjoy these cognitions and behaviours.

In the final analysis though, rather than accept the rather clumsy ramblings of a heterosexual like me, I suggest that readers investigate Dr Richard Isay’s more expert writings about homosexuality. I recommend his book, “Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance”. Google the title or the author for more information. I also vouch for Dr Isay's other books as I have found them all most helpful in informing a 'straight' individual concerning the facts about the gay community.

Isn't it a pity that we haven't as yet fully comprehended information that is now available to us all in respect to the obvious contribution of genes and in-utero processes to sexual orientation? Such learning would help society as a whole accept homosexuals as equal human beings with a sexual orientation that is as rightful for them as that enjoyed by heterosexuals. It will only be then that gay people will be entirely free to gladly embrace their sexual orientation without fear of rejection. In saying this I also recognise that there are many gays who have already found the strength within themselves to reject the wrongful prejudice thrust upon them and to live fulfilling lives loving each other; and more so without the bondage suggested by those who I in turn consider as bound by their own continuing ignorance and inability to change.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pulpit-led Backlash on Gay Marriage

Today The Australian newspaper headlines read "Labor faces pulpit-led backlash on gay marriage".

For those overseas readers who don't know, Labor or ALP stands for the Australian Labor Party who currently hold power as the federal government Down Under. To Americans the ALP may be seen as more akin the Democratic Party with more progressive social views and policies than their conservative rivals, the Liberal Party (while called the Liberal Party, they are certainly not 'liberal' in the American political use of the term).

The following describes the main thrust of what was reported in The Australian: "Protestant, Catholic and Muslim leaders have predicted an election loss for the Australian Government due to its new stance on same-sex marriage. The national congress of the Australian Labor Party has approved a proposal by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to give MPs a conscience vote on the issue, which is being seen by the churches as a breach of the election promise not to introduce changes to the Marriage Act. Labor is especially vulnerable as resistance to gay unions is likely in seats with large ethnic minorties that have traditionally been its strongholds. The Opposition also says the Government has alienated working class voters ...... "

Now there's an interesting scenario, the churches once again pitting the pulpit against homosexuals while at the same time saying little about more weighty matters that beset our society, including the burgeoning divorce rate among heterosexuals. So much for our hypocritical comments about the legitimacy of homosexual unions! The tragic historical issue of sexual abuse of children (both male and female) by priests is also worthy of a mention in the context of hypocrisy.

For time immemorial broader society has kept homophobia alive and well and persecuted those who have been born with a sexual orientation different to the majority. Like I have said in earlier blogs, with the current level of prejudice that is still prevalent in so many societies, who would want to choose a same sex lifestyle? Thank goodness that the scientific evidence of more recent years is telling us what gays have been trying to so for donkey's years, that is, 'it ain't a choice' as some simply happen to be born with a same-sex orientation (albeit with the usual interaction between genes and environment).

I put the question to readers, "What is the primary cause of the underlying anti-homosexual views in our society?" Let me suggest fundamentalist religion.

My work over some years in forensic mental health brought me across more than one case of how dangerous such religious influence can be for the gay community. Let me give you just two examples. One was the case of a very physically fit young man in his early 20s who had a history of violent assault, especially perpetrating unprovoked assaults on homosexuals. There were three explosive ingredients in this fellow's history, an evangelical background where he was educated to consider homosexuality a sin, the unfortunate fact that his younger brother had been sexually interfered with by a male when a child, and a psychotic disorder with paranoid delusions that added fuel to the fire. However, apart from his psychiatric illness it became clear from his conversations with me that he had been well trained in his childhood and adolescent church life to abhor homosexuality. I pitied the gentle young men who he had a reputation of bashing and maiming.

Another case was a man in his thirties who believed he had a mission from god to rid homosexuals from the prison system where he himself had been sent for assaultive behaviour in the community. He had a pentecostal background, well trained to view homosexuality as the primary sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, a sin allegedly abhorred by Lot's god. A sad, but informative aside is that the men who knocked on Lot's door did not ask for his son, but rather his daughter. So much for the misused and misunderstood term, 'sodomy'. Now back to the pentecostal prisoner with his homophobic preoccupation; he was also psychotic with clear paranoid delusions about his mission from god. In this case I suggested to the psychiatrist in charge of his case that we continue his treatment in the forensic hospital with antipsychotic medication with the hope that the delusional drive for his pathological hatred of homosexuals may remit and perhaps then I might be able to further ameliorate his extreme views with some focused psychological therapy. Additionally, I hoped to spare homosexuals in prison added persecution and pain.

Now you might blame the mental disorders of these two men for their extreme aggressive attitudes to homosexuals and I willingly concede that it certainly inflamed the situation. However, the thinking of these forensic mental health patients is unfortunately not far from the thinking of a dangerous minority in the general community, who while perhaps now far from their church backgrounds, nonetheless still carry the prejudice taught to them by under-educated fundamentalist clergy.

In the same vein, not long ago I met a retired Pentecostal preacher who clearly stated his abhorrence of all homosexual. I noted that his political views were also particularly conservative in that he lambasted climate change theory with little desire to discuss the issue in a rational manner. In my opinion such individuals provoke much food for thought about the type of individuals and personalities that may be more prone to homophobia and other equally close-minded attitudes.

I applaud the guts of the Australian Labor Party for choosing to support the gay community by recognising their equal ability to form loving and supportive long term relationships. Yes, it may be electorally risky for them, but such momentous decisions always require putting yourself at risk of a backlash.

Perhaps the church also needs to reconsider its position in light of the findings of recent genetic research that largely debunks the idea that gays somehow choose same sex attraction. Furthermore, those in the pulpits should seriously evaluate the possibility that they may be creating human time bombs in the case of less balanced parishioners by teaching strident views about a whole number of issues that fall aptly under the descriptive terms, 'narrow-minded and bigoted'. God help us all to find the grace and love to be more broad-minded and able to embrace difference.

(My readers might like to look at one or two of my older posts that address gay issues and religion. These posts are titled: "Why Try to Fix Something that is Not Broken?" - 19 February 2008; and "Homosexuality and the Continuing Ignorance of Religious Fundamentalists." - 8 February 2008. Additionally, may I suggest that you take a look at Google postings about recent comments by the Reverand Margaret Court on Gay issues and Gay marriage. She is a former Grand Slam tennis champ. Of course, you will see that her views are juxtaposed to mine and to my thinking it is a pity she didn't progress on to coaching tennis, rather than don the robes of the cleric! Check critiques of her views too as some of them have great merit)

More recent articles are added below for readers of my blog who are interested in the ongoing debate on gay isssues:

Same-sex marriage is not the political province of socialist parties

by: Cassandra Wilkinson
From:The Australian
December 17, 201112:00AM

"Following the ALP conference decision to allow a conscience vote on gay marriage Paul Sheehan wrote in The Age, "The week began with another shift to Greens policy." He wasn't alone in equating the campaign for gay marriage with a rise in the influence of the green Left, but gays and greens are only the most recent of acquaintances and the cause of gay marriage is the antithesis of the march of socialism.

The green socialist movement in Australia may be led by a gay man but socialist and communist governments have never been friends of liberty, least of all in love.

In Russia there was no specific law against homosexuality until the communists introduced one in 1933 carrying a prison term of five years. The law was not repealed until the brief flourishing of Russian parliamentary democracy under Boris Yeltsin. After World War II the East German communists retained article 175 of the Nazi penal code ensuring homosexuality was not welcome in the German Democratic Republic. Likewise, Chinese communists outlawed homosexuality from the beginning of the revolution until 1997, and removed it from the official lists of mental illness only in 2002.

Fair-minded British lefties were horrified at the recent alliance between fundamentalist Muslims and the British Socialist Workers Party under cover of the No War movement. The discomfort of socialists explaining their new friendships with bearded men who revile lesbian mothers would have been pretty funny except that it really, really wasn't.

As for Green parties being pro-gay, the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico has three members in the Senate, all of whom abstain on gay issues and one of whom has been forced to publicly apologise for vilifying a gay opponent.

In post-revolutionary Cuba the first National Congress on Education and Culture resolved that "all manifestations of homosexual deviations are to be firmly rejected and prevented from spreading". Gay people were rounded up and imprisoned by their comrades, put into "rehabilitation" camps during the 1960s and many then expelled from their own country in 1983, cast out to America on boats with violent criminals, the insane and other "undesirables".

Cuban gays found themselves in Ronald Reagan's America where, notwithstanding his close relationship with the Christian Right, the Republican president had a track record of not just looking the other way in his Hollywood years but in 1978, in the lead-up to his run for president, had vigorously opposed a California ballot initiative to ban homosexuals from teaching in public schools. While he later drew legitimate criticism for under-reacting to the AIDS crisis, Reagan is credited by many gay rights activists with turning public opinion on the California measure on the basis of his belief in personal freedom.

Reagan's good friend Margaret Thatcher has been criticised, with good reason, for passing a law to prevent the "promotion" of homosexuality, but few remember that one of her first acts as a parliamentarian was to vote in support of Leo Abse's bill to decriminalise homosexuality. She also voted in favour of Liberal Party leader David Steel's bill to legalise abortion. Her reasons for both votes are contained in Frederick Hayek's essay Why I Am Not a Conservative; as a lifelong liberal she sensibly saw the matter as private and no business of government.

Liberals grappled with the question of equality for homosexuals long before the Greens. Jeremy Bentham's essay Offences Against the Self, written in 1785, is believed to be the first known argument for decriminalisation of sodomy, which was then punishable by hanging. He covers exactly the arguments still made today, noting it weakens neither the man nor society. He tellingly criticises the homophobia of socialist philosopher Voltaire, who took time out between head-lopping to worry that homosexuality was "a vice which would destroy mankind if it were general; an infamous outrage against nature".

The rights of individuals to love as they please have only ever been respected as a consequence of liberal efforts to reduce the intrusion of government into private life and create the generalised prosperity that allows for individualism. Which is why gays and lesbians have only ever been free from violence, discrimination and fear in liberal democratic capitalist societies.

This is why it is so disappointing to hear gay rights being characterised as a left-wing or green issue when in fact it is a liberal issue. The freedom to love sits politically with the freedom to vote, to own private property, to express private opinion and the freedom to act as we please so long as it causes no clear harm to others.

Gay rights sit within the liberal tradition, not the socialist tradition. Should the Prime Minister relent and recognise that marriage between adults is a private affair she would in fact be abandoning the socialist tradition of subjugating private relationships to the perceived interests of the state.

The Australian Greens party, by contrast, appears driven to subjugate as many private interests as possible to the will of the state, from how we build our homes and educate our children to attacking the free press as requiring more regulation to ensure adequate green-ness. It has demonstrated no respect for private enterprise, private speech or private life. Its failed candidate Clive Hamilton notoriously commented that even democracy itself should be subordinate to the needs of the environment.

Gay and lesbian people have been unfairly associated with a drift to the Left in Australian politics. It is true that taxation, industrial relations, planning and education all reflect this trend to restrict personal freedom. A victory for gay marriage would be a welcome turn of the tide."

Anti-gay Message Inflicts Pain

By Julie Hosking
Talkingpoint, The West Australian, January 17, 2012, 12:00 pm

It must be so comforting up there in the land of certainty. Where everything is black and white.

No room for those murky shades of grey.

I say "up there" because the inhabitants of this particular plane claim the guidance of a higher power. They do not choose to think, speak or behave in a certain way - their God has told them to do so. It is with this certainty they feel entitled to judge the rest of us.

It must be wonderful to have faith, to be so certain that there is life after death, one that is so much better than our earthly existence - an afterlife full of love, forgiveness and happily ever after. Why, then, do so many who profess to believe in something so beautiful insist on using their faith in such an ugly way - to make others who do not measure up to their beliefs feel so abnormal, unloved and unwanted?

Down here in the real world, life is a little more perplexing and far more colourful. After listening to yet another series of missives from the certain ones, I am reminded yet again why I choose to live in the here and now, as if there were no second chances.

Margaret Court was a great tennis player, without a doubt. She won an incredible 62 grand slam titles and brought pleasure to lovers of the game the world over. But as a pastor of Victory Life, the evangelical church she founded, she is inflicting real pain on an already vulnerable section of our community.

Mrs Court waded into the debate about gay marriage with all the certainty and inflammatory language of a zealot. "Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take," she told The West Australian.

"To dismantle this sole definition of marriage and try to legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices that include sodomy, reveals our ignorance as to the ills that come when society is forced to accept law that violates their very own God-given nature of what is right and what is wrong."

The push for the right for gays to marry has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with love. And, honestly, what is she so afraid of? There was a little quiz doing the rounds on Facebook a while back. Among the multiple choice answers to the question "what will happen if gay people get married", there were the usual fire and brimstone predictions of disasters and Armageddon. The simple answer is, of course, "gay people will get married".

Worse was Mrs Court's frankly medieval assertion that homosexuality is about choice. "The fact that the homosexual cry is, 'we can't help it as we were born this way', as the cause behind their own personal choice is cause for concern. Every action begins with a thought.

There is a choice made." In preaching the abhorrent notion that homosexuality can be "overcome" with prayer and spiritual guidance as some kind of God-given truth, the venerated sportswoman is not only propagating intolerance, but putting vulnerable people at risk. Young people, in particular, who are still coming to terms with the fact their sexuality is not seen as "the norm", who feel alienated and frightened of telling their own loved ones, let alone the wider world.

Far from being "masterfully escorted" out from behind closed doors, homosexuals have had to endure centuries of mockery, bigotry and much, much worse. They have been beaten, burnt and publicly executed for their "choice". Indeed, in many countries people still "choose" to love someone of the same sex in the face of imprisonment or death.

You would think, wouldn't you, that if it was all about choice that any of the above would have been enough to make these confused individuals abandon their deviant behaviour long ago? If the threat of cancer is enough to make many give up smoking, surely the threat of death would be enough to make one choose to abandon their sexual leanings.

Bemused that the people she describes as an abomination would dare to crash this week's Australian Open and festoon the arena named after her in rainbow colours, Mrs Court professes to lack the very thing she argues homosexuals can use to bring them back into the fold of the righteous: choice.

"My views are biblical views, they're not Margaret Court's views and that's what I believe and that's what I stand for to protect family, to protect marriage between a man and a woman," she argued in her defence.

What is it about zealots that they feel they can pick and choose from an ancient text - written by mere mortals by the way - as befits their purpose? As other correspondents to this paper have pointed out, there are many tracts of the Bible that Mrs Court would never dream of employing as a defence.

The scriptures that support slavery or demand we stone adulterers, or the one that argues no woman should be preaching to men.

Mrs Court is clearly hurt by the backlash from other high-profile tennis players, including Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, as well as Tennis Australia's statement to the effect it does not share her views. She also seems more than a little miffed that homosexuals and their supporters will be allowed to unfurl their rainbow colours in "her" arena, as if such an open - no pun intended - display of solidarity is more offensive than her diatribe.

That's what you get in a democracy. She made the choice to speak out. Every action begins with a thought, remember? You can't fire a rocket into the heart of real people's lives from a lofty pulpit and expect them to sit idly by while you make them feel less than human.

This pastor may not hate gay people but her comments do nothing to dispel hatred.

Of that I am certain.

(The following article describes a television interview with one of Australia's premier comedy personalities)

Magda thought of suicide, struggled with sexuality

Adam Cooper
The Age
February 15, 2012 - 11:28AM

Magda Szubanski has admitted to having suicidal thoughts while struggling with her homosexuality as a teen and has rejected claims by tennis great Margaret Court that sexual preference was a choice for people.

The day after the comic actor announced publicly she was gay, Szubanski called for greater respect to be shown to homosexuals, although she said Australia was overwhelmingly a tolerant society on the issue.

Court, a former world No.1 tennis player and now a pastor with the Perth-based evangelical Victory Life Centre, last month claimed people chose to be gay. She later claimed homosexuality was often the result of sexual abuse.

Szubanski today said while she respected Court's sporting achievements, she did not hold the same view on Court's opinions on homosexuality.

"All this notion of choice, the notion you can terrorise or frighten - they used to give people electric shock therapy," she told radio station 3AW.

"I think all you can do is respect what people are and [show] the most compassion and empathy that you can bring to the situation, trying to foster in people who they really are and help them be their best self."

Szubanski said she was relieved at coming out publicly, although she had previously done so "thousands of times" to family, friends and colleagues.

She said she had struggled with her feelings when she first realised she was gay, and while she wouldn't elaborate, admitted she had felt suicidal.

"Oh yes, yeah, absolutely ... people will say 'Why did I take a while to do this [come out]?' I needed to be as solid as I could be so I could do this in the strongest possible way and be really clear about myself," she said.

"I didn't want to come out and botch coming out as it were, I wanted to be effective and useful for other people and to get on really solid ground yourself can really take a while. It can really take a while - it can be a journey - so that's why I think it's really important to respect people's journey, whatever that is."

Szubanski said gay people often struggled to come to terms with who they were or be accepted by their families, and pointed to high rates of substance abuse, depression and youth suicide as associated factors.

She said she was lucky she had a supportive family, but still endured her emotional struggles as a teen.

"Oh my god. I know how those kids feel. Believe me, I know how those kids feel," she said.

"I was in my teens when I started to kind of realise and we're talking the 1970s, and we're talking living in Croydon in the Sharpie era [of suburban youth gangs].

"I have a Scottish-Irish mother and a Polish father and there is a certain wisdom in keeping your head down sometimes. Those cultural influences also have an impact, no doubt about it."

Szubanski said she had been "absolutely overwhelmed and so moved by the beautiful response" by the Australian public since she came out publicly and discussed her sexuality on Channel Ten's The Project last night.

Read more:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

YWAM's 50th, Same Old, Same Old

What astounds me is that the once very simple (dare I use the word, simplistic) Youth With A Mission vision of waves of young people washing across all nations has now turned into a rather convoluted version of sameness.

I was invited to attend a YWAM 50th celebration recently in recognition of my role as one of the original merry band from the nether regions of the South Pacific. I graciously accepted the invitation even though it was an invitation to attend a traditional ‘happy-clappy’ YWAM sing-along, followed by a presentation by the founding director of the Mission, Loren Cunningham. There was no popping of champagne corks or canapés unfortunately. Anyway, I skipped the ‘happy-clappy’ part of the show and turned up just after Loren commenced his presentation. It was another multimedia blitzkrieg that reminded me of the first multi-screen, multimedia YWAM show back in the 70s that was driven by an army of slide projectors, rather than the wonder of a single digital computer as was the case last night. The history of the organisation was again explained to the waiting youthful audience who hung on every word of the master. Loren was quick to expose his fundamentalist leanings by stating that in spite of the growth of Islam worldwide, “Jesus was still winning” in the numbers stakes. He also added the coup de gras of Christian fundamentalism by stating that, “God only has one book”. I thought we might have learned something since 9/11, but it appears not, the good ol’ American ethnocentrism and narrow-mindedness shone through just the same as it did when I was a bright-eyed and undereducated disciple of the master back in the 60s and 70s.

Now to my point about how the simple gospel message seems to have been reborn in more complex wording that refects an attempt to turn the ‘Old Time Story’ into modern corporate-speak. Nonetheless the essence of his presentation was the same old, same old, except that it was told in more convoluted language. Loren spoke not only of the vision of the world ‘Spheres’ that he pointed out was given to the Mission by God in 1975, but he went on to add something new to my naïve ears, the additional concept of ‘Omega Zones’, that he partially explained as references to all the little areas within various ‘Spheres’ that must now be targeted individually with Christian fundamentalism. To hell with the local religious and philosophical beliefs that form the very foundation of these unique and wonderful subcultures, just go in there with ‘God’s only book’ and rack up some stats for Jesus. To be fair to Loren though, he caught himself talking about world evangelisation in terms of statistics and reminded the youthful audience that it was actually people who should be the Mission’s main concern, not statistics. Well, well, there’s a new concept.

It’s probably obvious to readers of this blog that I am endeavouring to provoke some thinking outside the old evangelical square. To my thinking one of the hallmarks of fundamentalism is the belief that its message is the truth to the exclusion of other points of view. I freely concede that it is not just YWAM or their retired director who holds such a point of view and I don’t want to be seen to be exclusively picking on them. I can well remember non-YWAM evangelical missionaries encouraging the destruction the 'Spirit Houses' on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the loss of thousands of artefacts of great antiquity. There was a hullabaloo in the Port Moresby newspaper about it at the time and I personally disagreed with such wanton destruction of relics of history and signposts of cultures different from our own. What gives us the right to do this? Some may suggest the Bible (Christian one that is), but I see such a view as an excuse to replicate our own culture all over the world at the expense of a more diverse range of interesting and fascinating cultures. Remember, insisting that our beliefs are transcendent and encouraging subcultures to change in the name of our religion will just lead to a world of sameness - in my mind a very boring place to live. After all, why do we all like to travel overseas anyway?

I can remember how exciting and exhilarating it was to walk into a village on a pristine Melanesian island and wonder at the cultural diversity that had its foundation in beliefs so different, and so much older that those of my Salvation Army mother and Anglican father. To insist that these individuals change their beliefs would have ripped the heart out of the culture and caused it to collapse into the melting pot of sameness. Yes, to recognise my own cultural prejudices and change my thinking and behaviour was a challenge, but nonetheless it was a course I had to embark on once I was willing to cease my well-honed defensiveness and consider ideas that I had hithertofore been too fearful to contemplate. Sure, international industrialisation, multinational mining companies and the inevitable drift to secularism will have their negative impact on these subcultures anyway, but why hurry the destructive process along by suggesting that people burn their ‘wicked and evil’ artefacts and come along nicely clothed to a good Christian church (maybe even a Megachurch with cappuccino on tap). I am sure that the people of these non-Western societies, ‘Spheres’, and ‘Omega Zones’ may experience some level of culture shock if they were able to view some of the horrendous effects of our religious and cultural beliefs; after all we are knee deep in plastic bags and atomic weapons, as well as becoming fatter than the pigs we raise, even though we might go about the world trumpeting the wonders of the Christian ethos!

You might think I am being awfully sarcastic in respect to my comments about Loren Cunningham’s latest foray in explaining the YWAM vision and mission around the world, but remember we should always endeavour to view these things though the eyes of other cultures and religions. To fail to do so will ensure that Americanised Christianity is treated with growing contempt and resistance around the world, and in the Muslim world, it will no doubt help promote the insanity of equally fundamentalist suicide bombers who are just sick to death of the rampant domination of God’s ‘chosen’ people from the blessed, non-Muslim West. But then again, Sarah Palinism is alive and well in the hearts and minds of American Evangelicals and Pentecostals, so I suspect that my admonition will fall mainly on deaf ears.

By the way, in talking about the 'Same Old, Same Old', are Afican Americans still conspicuously missing in YWAM as was the case when I was an active participant in the '70s? I would hope that this situation may have changed since President Obama came onto the scene.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pentecostalism: An Education in Threat and Fear

There are many things that go bump in the night that we are sensitised to fear from our earliest years; often made more so by superstitious parents or older siblings who seem to enjoy scaring their younger brothers and sisters. Indeed, I can remember living in a little ol’ house in the suburbs as a boy with one of those old outside ‘johns’, or ‘loos’. Being the second youngest of six left me somewhat prone to the scheming of my four older siblings who took delight in waiting in the darkened backyard for me until I left the ‘john’ and then jumping out and making some blood curdling noise that would have frightened even the dead. No wonder I have been left with a well-developed startle response!

However, the frights in the darkened backyard and stories of witches and mythical beings that I was subjected too by my brothers and sisters pales into insignificance when compared to the thorough socialisation in fear that the church gifted me. No, it wasn’t the Episcopalian, Lutheran or Presbyterian churches, it was the good ol’ rocking and rolling pentecostal church; otherwise known as the ‘full-gospel’ church. The ‘smile to strangers’, ‘slap on the back’ and ‘shout hallelujah’ type of church. My God, what an education in fear and superstition they gave me!

From my earliest days in Sunday School through to my emotion-charged introduction to ‘Holy Spirit baptism’ as an adolescent, I was taught all about the lurking demons, who with bated breath waited for me to stray from God’s protective grace. I can even recall those drawings of skulking devils in the picture bible that my mother must have bought for us ‘lucky’ kids. Now, as an adult, I am reminded of it whenever I see the renowned art in the churches of Italy with its devils, demons, and saints; along with Jesus, his mother, Mary and the so-called guardian angels. Strangely though, we Westerners are often bemused by the so-called ‘primitive’ spiritual beliefs of other cultures, forgetting that all the paraphernalia of our own religion must look awfully weird to them as well. It just goes to highlight the arrogance and ignorance of our own culture when we fail to recognise that we are no different to others when it comes to religious superstition. I can remember my time in Papua New Guinea as a young man when I considered the spiritual beliefs of the indigenous population with some mirth, and yet not being able to objectively reflect on the strangeness of my own spiritual beliefs that were fraught with irreconcilable errors and bizarre concepts. It was some years later before a little humility and open-mindedness allowed my own beliefs to be challenged; it was only then that I began to break free of the shackles of fundamentalist evangelicalism and Pentecostalism that were installed into my psyche as an impressionable child.

I can well remember being taught all the usual pentecostal and evangelical poppycock, like if you stray from the fold, the wolf may come and devour you. This allegory no doubt had its origins in reality when earlier societies may well have reminded their children to stick around the village or they may go missing like some of the local shepherd’s flock. Of course in my case it was all about not committing sins for fear of straying from the protection of God’s grace and my guardian angel; or worse still, face the prospect of eternal damnation in the fires of hell.

The movie, “Jesus Camp” graphically depicts the inhumane nature of the powerful indoctrination process that is inflicted upon so many evangelical and pentecostal children. The woman who was the main character in this story, and who can be seen using the ‘threat and fear’ tactics mentioned above, would do well to be sued by some of these children once they become adults. To my thinking such action would be deserved and might help to put a stop to what I viewed as the exposure of innocent children to potential post-traumatic stress disorder outcomes. Take a look at the movie for yourself and consider the anguish in the eyes and faces of these beautiful young ones who through no fault of their own were born to parents with fundamentalist beliefs and sent off to this camp to learn to be better disciples. The movie also demonstrates the obvious lack of formal education in critical thinking and a capacity for scientific analysis among these ignorant parents; who in turn allowed their children to be subjected to what I considered blatant emotional abuse and manipulation at the ‘Jesus Camp’.

My thoughts on the above and this particular blog were in fact prompted after reading recent comments to one of my earlier blogs that critiqued Dean Sherman’s spiritual warfare book: The blog can be found at: ( The anonymous reader and commenter made two consecutive comments about Dean Sherman’s thesis. In the first he mentions that Mr Sherman’s comments may border on being blasphemous, but then recants in the second as if out of fear. He effectively apologises for using the term, blasphemous. Now, whether Mr Sherman’s views are blasphemous is not the point; what concerned me was that this fellow appeared to be shackled by the bonds of threat and fear and was too afraid to speak his mind and stand by what he had originally stated. To me it was a good example of the powerful hold that fear has over truth and objectivity. I hope this man is able to break free and speak his mind in the future without being beset by fear of divine retribution for being open and honest in his opinion. This poor fellow must have felt much unease, probably brought about by having been taught that accusing someone of blasphemy may unleash some type of payback, not in the legal sense I am sure, but more so in respect to retribution from God, or Satan. Funny thing isn’t it how the loving and benevolent God of our childhood is also capable of meting out vengeance just because we wrongly or rightly accuse someone of blasphemy. Maybe this god has a ‘Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder’, or is psychopathic, or the like? I would have thought that a good and loving god (or parent) would simply kindly remind us to be careful about what we say about our fellow human beings, without implying the likelihood of impending punishment.

From my own experience and after viewing the contents of the movie “Jesus Camp”, it is patently clear that when we are subjected to the teachings of fundamentalist religion, whatever its label, fear and threat are an essential part of the indoctrination process. In a sense we are ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’. We are told we are destined to commit both sins of commission and sins of omission and will face the music for doing either unless we bow, or grovel in repentance. It is not unlike the demands and threats of any other totalitarian and undemocratic regime, like the Stalin era in Soviet Russia where you were told to give a disproportionate part of your crop to the State and remain in good favour with the ruling elite, or otherwise face either execution or a long period in the Gulags to make restitution. It is all about paying your dues or facing payback. No concept of positive reinforcement here, it is the threat of punishment that drives the devotees onward. Come to think of it, the Catholic Church’s concept of Purgatory is somewhat ‘Gulagish’ in that we are told that we can expiate our sins by doing a little time in Purgatory en route to heaven. Talk about the fables of more ‘primitive’ societies, I think we who were raised in modern fundamentalist Christianity, Judaism and Islam ‘take first prize’ for ignorance.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Abortion Laws and the Australian Bushfires - A Platform for Religious Extremists

I found the following news article on the Australian Broadcasting Commission website. I quote it verbatim as follows:

Abortion Laws to Blame for Bush Fires?
Feb 10, 2009

This is surely the most unusual statement made in the wake of Victoria's bushfires. A press release from Catch the Fire Ministries reads (in part):

Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM) leader Pastor Danny Nalliah said he would spearhead an effort to provide every assistance to devastated communities, although he was not surprised by the bush fires due to a dream he had last October relating to consequences of the abortion laws passed in Victoria.

He said these bushfires have come as a result of the incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb.

Yesterday (Monday 9th February 2009), the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper reported "The Darkest hour for Victoria".

A few months ago the news media should have reported "The darkest hour for the unborn" but unfortunately the "Decriminalization of Abortion bill" went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria "the baby killing state of Australia", Mr Nalliah said.
He said on November 7th last year we had sent out an email to our national network and a posting on our website carried an urgent post titled, ‘STOP PRESS. URGENT PRAYER NEEDED REGARDING AUSTRALIA, ESPECIALLY THE STATE OF VICTORIA’ following a dream he had on the 21st of October 2008, which he shared with his team on 22nd October.

Following is an excerpt from the dream which was published in the article:

"In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God. That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb.”
End quote

What struck me when I read this news article was the absurd and insensitive nature of Pastor Nalliah’s statement; although I assure you, that as a son of Pentecostal excess, this type of thinking was part of everyday life during my childhood. Sometimes I wonder how I survived and remain relatively sane!

This matter also brought to mind a time when I was working with Youth With a Mission in the United States during the late 1970’s, a time when bushfires also raged out of control across the southeastern area of Australia. I well remember a striking statement made by a senior leader in YWAM at the time.

He stated, in all seriousness how it appeared that God’s judgement was upon Australia in the form of the bushfires. Even though I was still caught up in the fundamentalist web in those days, and a bit overawed by my 'spiritual senior', I was nevertheless taken back by what was said and remember thinking how this fellow was entirely ignorant about the nature of the tinder dry Australian bushland that is primarily made up of Eucalypt tree, that are in turn full of Eucalyptus oil, and therefore burn like no other forest in the world. He also appeared entirely uninformed about the fact that these fires rage every summer somewhere in the Australian bush in the face of temperatures well over 100 degrees, albeit with less ferocity. However, to attribute a major flare-up of these annual bushfires to an act of God was in my mind as ludicrous as Pastor Nalliah’s ranting about how these must be linked to abortion legislation of all things.

It is no wonder that the better educated community of 2009 is becoming increasingly intolerant of idiotic statements from the likes Pastor Nalliah and his fundamentalist colleagues; especially when they might have lost their loved ones to the fires. Let me tell you, from what I have read of the responses to Pastor Nalliah’s statements in Downunder news media, religion is the loser as people are sick to death of the fundamentalist claptrap that is behind such inane, insensitive and irrational comment.