May 2014 letters

Last month I was baptised at Ballarat Central Uniting Church, where I have been attending Sunday worship for over a year. On that day, I was asked why I choose to be baptised, a commitment I do not take lightly. I would like to share my answer here:

Why I choose to be baptised?

I can say it is a personal challenge that beckons, one that will not be quelled until taken up.
I can say it is the inevitable step in the natural progression of recent events.
I can say I need to unlearn many things so that I can re-learn them anew.
I can say I have had a spiritual restlessness, a void that is, slowly but surely, being filled.
I can say that Baptism is an affirmation that I wish to complete that part of me that was hitherto incomplete.
I can say Christianity is the final frontier I have, until now, yet to cross and that today I am crossing over into it.
But above and beyond all these, what I would really like to say is this:

I am here today by God’s grace. It was His grace that led me to this church, His Grace that opened my heart to His Word and His Grace that opened my eyes to the magnanimity of this church community in so readily embracing us (my husband Steven and I) as their own.
So what do you do when you realise you have been receiving God’s grace? We thank Him. Today Steven and I would like to thank Him in the way he wants us to. By joining His family. And Lord, I want to say, it’ll be our greatest pleasure.

Kimmy Fam
Ballarat, VIC

 

The March column written by Dan Wootton is concerning in a number of aspects. As fighters, our turnout protective clothing (the yellows) is not second hand. We get it issued new and CFA will replace when it becomes worn and unserviceable.

However we do not launder it regularly as washing removes the fire protective compound added to the cotton material. Also CFA volunteers are aware that the CFA does not have an endless supply of funds and hence will not ask for protective clothing replacements just because it has become marked from soot or a cuff is a bit worn. However if the clothing has lost its reflective bands or has holes then it should and will be replaced.

Our moderator’s attitude to staying or leaving is very concerning and potentially fatal. If the moderator’s fire plan is to leave and not defend this is exactly what he should do on days of Extreme or Code Red fire danger long before there is fire in his locality (I do not know what the rating was on the day Dan refers to). If the fire is only 2 km away before he decides to leave that is far too late, as the fire could be at his property in 15 minutes and the route out may have already been impacted by fire and be impassable. It was this same wait and see attitude that killed many people on Black Saturday.

Dan’s ‘bag’ should include as a minimum the following (consider what you would do without the documents and other items listed):
Pets
Toiletries, food, pet food, water
Mobile phone and charger, battery powered radio
Spare batteries, first aid kit, woollen blankets
Photos and important documents
Computer
Doctor’s name and address
Personal documents (Banking details, licences, passport)
Medication and prescriptions

Please note that the CFA can supply (and has on its website – www.cfa.vic.gov.au) more detailed information relating to many other matters relating to fire safety.

John Dunn
Secretary Violet Town Uniting Church Council (2nd Lieutenant Violet Town Fire brigade and President – District 22 Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria)

 

I read Nigel Tapp’s article on the Tasmanian election in your April edition with interest. While I might take issue with his partisan linking of Labor with the Greens (straight from the Liberal party’s key lines document) or the underhanded applauding of the Liberal’s commitment to tear up the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement, an important and historic document protecting old growth heritage forests, I will instead focus on his identification of same-sex marriage as part of the “Labor-Green social agenda”.

Same-sex marriage is part of a widely held social agenda for equality and justice. Same-sex marriage has majority support across Australia and polling numbers suggest it’s growing. A Fairfax/Nielsen poll from 2011 finds that 57 per cent of Australians support same-sex marriage, and a Galaxy Poll from 2012 says that 64 per cent of Australians support it.

In addition, publicly available research has shown that 53 per cent of Christians are open to same-sex marriage.

I find it disheartening to see discrimination of gay and lesbian people and dismissal of their fight for equal rights and justice as some sort of fringe political issue in a church newspaper. The church as an institution should be standing with advocates for same-sex marriage and being a voice for equality in the public.

A Graham
Mount Waverley, VIC

 

Christianity has taken some hard knocks recently and how do we respond? We seem to be turning our cheeks and doing nothing at all.
Bad publicity is all we get and that is not good. Church attendance is dropping so we sell off loved churches. Other religions are given opportunities to speak on TV and radio and are not criticised. Where are the Christians? Are we so cowered by our mistakes, so ashamed we keep quiet?

Letters to the newspaper are not printed. Whenever Christian characters appear in TV or films they are figures of fun or evil. Father Brown has been the only intelligent churchman doing what we all try to do, help people. But even then, his housekeeper is intolerant.
Publicity is very expensive, even in local papers, but should we not be willing to spend? Can we not afford to?

The businessmen and women who run synod thought they could help by opening a private school but had not noticed how few church-school students continue as Christians. So many journalists, writers and broadcasters have attended church schools but speak as if they despise them and are happy to ridicule their teachers.

What do we stand for? What do we offer? Can we not employ some clever, Christian advertisers to make our message known in modern ways? Tell our message that Jesus Christ, Son of God, showed us the way to live and, through him, we can pray to God at any time of day and are offered forgiveness when we fail to obey.

When I was young we supported missionaries. Now we have lost enthusiasm and are scared to speak up in our own land.

Beryl Bartacek
Emerald VIC

 

Thank you to Margaret White and the Friends of PNG for expressing the thoughts of so many in our community. Your letter shows that no matter how helpless we feel, we can still have our say on matters important to us. I would encourage others to take a leaf out of the Friends’ book and take the time to pen such a thoughtful, clear and polite letter to let those who represent us know how we feel.

Anne Wilson
Rosebud VIC

 

As a member of Gen-Y and having spent much of my life in Australia, I am lucky. It is easy to forget that my generation has never seen war, and cannot possibly have any real concept of the total and utter devastation it causes. Nor have we lived under a government that persecutes us for being a particular ethnicity, colour or religion unattractive to the powers-that-be.

But I am one generation away from having to leave my home, my country, due to war. I am here because that is what my grandmother chose to do. From the middle of a warzone she ran, with her toddler daughter, across fields and over a border before making it to Australia.

I say chose, but is that the word you would use faced with a life or death situation? I can only imagine the horror many refugees go through before they run.

She and her husband did not take their arrival in Australia for granted. They worked hard. They contributed to the very fabric of Australian society. They built a life for themselves in Australia, and every day I should be thankful that they did.

I have been back to the apartment block my grandmother fled with my mother. While daily life carries on the bullet holes in the façade remain.

It is therefore with interest that I read the commentary on refugees and the various ‘solutions’ to this apparent ‘problem’. In particular

I note a letter from the Friends of the United Church of PNG and the Solomon Islands, seeking Minister Morrison’s responses to fundamental questions about his off-shore processing policies. For many of us, Mr Morrison, your ideas about refugees fly in the face of not only what it means to be a good global citizen but to be an Australian.

We like to think of ourselves as somehow progressive on the global stage. How then, is it reasonable to demand another sovereign nation deal with issues we have created? How is it fair to export our so-called problems to poorer nations than our own? And why is it that the lucky country isn’t able to extend the hand of welcome and the basic human rights to these people who need us?
I look forward to Crosslight publishing the response received by the Friends if, indeed, there is any.

SG Szabo
Hawthorn, VIC.

 

Some readers have expressed concern at Crosslight publishing letters with no attribution. The following is our position:
Crosslight does not publish letters from anonymous sources.

In the case of very sensitive issues such as bullying, relinquishing a child, substance abuse, childhood trauma and so on, the writer may request their name be withheld to avoid any further victimisation.

All letters published ‘name withheld’ have been through the editorial process. In many cases this includes contacting the writer for further clarification and, in some cases, removing information that may identify individuals or congregations discussed in the letter.

We believe that allowing the voice of survivors to be heard in a safe environment (name withheld) allows the writer to express an opinion that may have been supressed for many years. This not only empowers the letter writer, it often opens up the conversation for others who may have experienced similar isolation. In the recent case of the bullying issue, some writers have made contact through our editorial department and are now supporting each other.

Associate Professor of Journalism at the Ohio University Bill Reader published a research paper in 2005 in The Journal of Mass Media Ethics titled ‘An Ethical “Blind Spot”: Problems of Anonymous Letters to the Editor’.

Reader notes an important distinction needs to be made between strictly anonymous sources and sources who do not wish their name be published. He states:

“… one can see that the publication of unsigned letters is not an intrinsic violation of ethical standards. Rather, unsigned letters may expand the types of topics discussed in newspaper forums by encouraging criticism … by giving more people an opportunity to participate in public discourse, both of which are considered socially valuable functions of letters to the editor forums.”

In the case of a niche publication such as Crosslight, public discourse is particularly relevant for those who might feel disempowered, isolated and excluded from the church community. The conversations generated through the ‘name withheld’ letters provide a valuable opportunity for discussion and reflection on issues that might otherwise remain hidden.

A policy of only publishing signed letters would mean that well-written, thoughtful letters will be rejected in favour of substandard letters that are signed.

In a small community such as the VicTas Synod, important topics, such as those listed previously, will not be discussed as people are naturally reticent to be identified.

In the editorial department we are very mindful that some voices could dominate the letters and opinion pages. We even receive irate emails and phone calls from letter writers demanding their opinions are published. Such a policy risks the conversation of the church being controlled by those who deem their opinion more worthy than that of others who may feel less confident. So those who shout the loudest are heard the most.

Reader concludes his research by suggesting that a policy of only publishing signed letters discourages the free exchange of views:

“…in reality the forums have become places where only those comfortable enough to sign their names may stand up and be heard and where the voiceless can only watch in silence.”

*As a footnote, in recent months Crosslight has received letters from writers who do not want to be identified as they work for the public service or other organisations where criticism of government policy is grounds for dismissal. In, in these cases, the identity of the writer is verified and letters are published under an assumed name or name withheld.

 

 

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One Response to “May 2014 letters”

  1. I disagree with many of the comments made in the letter by Beryl Bartacek (May 2014).

    She seems rather pessimistic about the attitudes of the media and the wider community toward the Christian faith. However, I see some real signs of hope in this regard.

    For example, one international public figure that has caught the world’s attention (including the media’s attention) in a strongly positive way in the past year is Pope Francis. This shows that when a faith leader is an individual with great warmth, compassion, and integrity, the faith leader will command the respect and admiration of the majority of people of good will.

    Similarly, such Christian leaders as the Rev. Tim Costello and Fr. Bob Maguire (along with the occasional UCA figures) are frequently among those requested by many media outlets to comment on a wide variety of issues within the wider community (including issues that are not overtly “religious”).

    And while there is admittedly a lack of intelligent reporting on faith-related issues in much of the commercial media, there are a number of programmes on the ABC (both television and radio) in which it is possible to hear intelligent discussions of issues involving faith and spirituality, with informed Christian perspectives being clearly expressed (frequently alongside the perspectives of other faiths and philosophies).

    And, with the comment that “other religions … are not criticised”, perhaps we’re not reading the same papers. As a Christian, I read various criticisms of Christianity in many publications (some justified, others over-the-top) and yet I still feel personally safe. If I were either a Jew or a Muslim and if I read some of the inflammatory comments about either faith that I regularly find in any metropolitan daily newspaper (particularly in the “letters” page), I’d be frankly nervous for my own safety.

    Some of the criticism of Christians in the public arena seems to develop from occasions when there is an obvious ethical inconsistency on the part of some high-profile Christians. For example, if a politician wears his/her Christian faith upon his/her sleeve on the one hand, yet (on the other hand) promotes policies that seem to reject the compassionate way of life lived out by Jesus, this inconsistency between the faith professed and the policies pursued should be noted and mentioned. Not to notice the inconsistency would show a greater level of contempt for Christianity than noticing it.

    And, finally, with the comment that Christians “seem to be turning our cheeks”, isn’t that what Jesus told us to do anyway?