Friday, 25 February 2011

His eyelids test the children of man

That's from Psalm 11, and refers to the LORD.

It is a strange little phrase but in its immediate context—

4 The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

—it does tend to suggest that God can look directly at us and judge even when his eyes are closed.

A comfort for the righteous who think that God has forgotten them, and a terror for the wicked.

I'm blogging Psalm 11 over at the Sola Panel, and there is another post from the other day about a mission statement for church.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Iran then, Egypt now

Mark Durie is a reliable voice when it comes to contemporary Islam. Here he points to an article by Andrew Boston where the parallel is made between the Muslim Brotherhood currently on the up-and-up in Egypt, and the fawning attitude adopted towards Ayatollah Khomeini as he was coming to power in Iran.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Legalized pornography, legalized prostitution and slavery

If you favour the continued legalization of pornography and prostitution (and some Christians do argue this on the grounds of freedom of choice for sins they are not personally involved in), then this article, Commercialized Sex and Human Bondage by Ellyn Arevalo and Mark Regnerus suggests at least some reasons why this is not a wise or good idea.

From the article:

While precise figures remain difficult to obtain given human trafficking’s underworld existence, in 2002 USAID estimated that between 700,000 and 4 million persons are trafficked each year into slavery. That number does not include cases of trafficking within a country’s borders, only across them. Furthermore, not only is human trafficking the fastest-growing criminal industry, it is tied with the illegal arms industry as being the second-largest global criminal industry.


rather than eliminate sexual trafficking, the evidence has consistently revealed that legalizing prostitution fosters it.


Of course most of us want to end sexual slavery, but the commercial sex industry—which is the very lifeblood of trafficking—is increasingly tolerated. Prostitution is seen by plenty as a legitimate, if suboptimal, form of “work,” and pornography is taken to be harmless. And yet the commercial sex market and sex trafficking are symbiotically related; the latter simply would not exist without the former. Women and girls are trafficked into brothels, strip clubs, and massage parlors. They’re photographed and filmed servicing men. Customers—including men who simply click on free porn on the web—do not and cannot distinguish between trafficked women, prostitutes, and porn stars.


In other words, sexual demand is not as stable as you might think; it can be stimulated. Just consider what happened in Australia when its government decriminalized prostitution and took control of the industry: “in New South Wales where brothels were decriminalized in 1995, the number of brothels in Sydney had tripled to 400-500 by 1999, with the vast majority having no license.”


in a recent study of trafficking and prostitution across nine countries, researchers found that out of 785 sex workers, “89 percent…wanted to escape prostitution but did not have other options for survival.”

Free choice here is largely a myth.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Ethics classes in NSW schools

I see that the coalition (that is, the guys who will be governing NSW in just a few months) have reneged on their promise to scrap ethics classes, which means that a lot of state schools in NSW will be offering them as an alternative to school scripture this year.

This is one of those bad news-good news items. In the short term, it is pretty much all bad news. The selling point was that this would provide an option for non-religious families to involve their children in considering ethical issues, but wouldn't be promoted as suitable for all students and certainly wouldn't undermine existing Scripture classes. That was always going to be spin, and even during the trial period rhetoric didn't match reality (see this report for some examples). Lying liars from Mendacity City, Arkansas, have told their lying lies and now we are left with the result—ethics classes available to all state schools in NSW and broadly promoted to all students and parents as a desirable and good thing.

Add to that, the coalition parties in NSW said they'd remove the classes, and then promptly backed down and said they wouldn't. That doesn't look good even when you assess it in purely secular ethical terms. Lots of thoughts here about yes, maybe some of those involved in political promises would benefit from a bit of ethical instruction before promoting it to the great unwashed as the solution to many of life's problems.

The good news (I think and suspect), is that school scripture is now safer than it was. Yes, there were constitutional safeguards to ensure that it always was safe, but the way the ethics trials have been introduced show how easily such things are circumvented at local level when parents are told by governments that their children are being treated unfairly. It may never have occurred to parents that their children were missing out by being denied instruction in philosophical ethics; now many of them are persuaded that they have been deprived in the past and that this new course will meet their needs.

Now that the classes are going to begin to be offered, a lot of the intensity of feeling will go out of the whole discussion.

So I predict that the new classes will be nowhere near as wonderful in execution as they are meant to be in theory, falling at an early hurdle for lack of parents and citizens to teach them. It's one thing to be excited about ethics as a good thing for kids to learn, it's quite another to sign up to a roster to teach it for weeks and terms on end as a volunteer. Ask any school scripture teacher about that cost.

Not only that, but any heat in the campaign of some secularists to remove school scripture from schools will dissipate due to the well-publicized introduction of a secular alternative. The same argument that says 'we want choice for our kids' is the one that Christians will and should use to keep on going with existing school scripture classes (which remain constitutionally protected as a part of the state school education system). If those scripture classes are well-taught and well-run, children will be happy, parents will be happy, schools will be happy and one brilliant opportunity to teach children the gospel will remain in place.

[UPDATE: A lawyer friend corrects me by pointing out that the right to teach Scripture in NSW state schools is strictly speaking legally protected, but not constitutionally protected. Thanks Neil!]