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The Fundy Post: Issue 4 - Civil Unions Update

The Fundy Post: Issue 4

Civil Unions Update

...and we're back. Apologies for the delay but we have been busy with lots of things, particularly the Civil Unions campaign. Speaking of which, here is an important message:

The Civil Unions Bill is being voted on in parliament next week. You probably know that there is a large amount of opposition to the bill from a small number of conservative reactionary fundamentalists.

The Civil Unions bill is about a couple of things really:

1) It removes discrimination from our laws. In this day and age it is unfair that gay and lesbian couples are denied the right to the formal recognition of their relationship. Imagine being together with somebody for over twenty years and then being denied the right to view your partner's body because you are not considered legal next of kin. This is just one example of the hundreds of pieces of legislation that discriminate against homosexual couples. If you support the Civil Unions bill, you support equality in our country.

2) It recognises the changing nature of relationships. In NZ today there are over 300,000 heterosexual and homosexual couples living together, but not married. This bill will give them the protection and benefits of legal recognition of their relationships, without the historical and religious connotations that marriage entails.

It's really important that heaps of real people show their support for the bill and so please put pen to paper and word to processor and send a letter to an MP outlining your support for the legislation.

MP's contact details can be found at:

http://www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/YourMP/ListMPs/

Negative campaigning is bound to occur so please prepare a letter to the editor for either your local community newspaper or major newspaper outlining your support. There is no doubt that from Monday next week the campaign against this bill is going to be extreme in more ways than one.

So, before the end of the week please:

1) Write to your local MP or any MP in your area, encourage Mum/Dad/Friends etc do the same. (its freepost to parliament and emails cost nothing)

2) Prepare a letter of positive support to be sent to a newspaper or magazine early next week.

Info to help with all this can be found at: http://www.civilunions.co.nz

Please forward this to anyone you feel may be willing to help. It should be an interesting week in politics next week, with your help we can get this important piece of progressive legislation through.

Message ends. If you need any further convincing, go to the Public Address website at http://publicaddress.net/default,1285.sm#post1285 and read the transcript of a secretly recorded meeting at Milford Baptist Church, a rare opportunity to observe fundies in their natural environment.

*************

That Bishop

The opinions of Bishop Vercoe on homosexuality and women have been discussed everywhere in the last couple of weeks, so only one question remains: what were they thinking when they appointed him? I don't know how the Anglican Church goes about choosing its bishops, but you would have thought that someone would have asked him such questions as: "what do you think of the Church's policy towards gays" or "why did you refuse to attend the ordination of Dr Penny Jamieson?" Instead, he was chosen because the Pakeha Anglicans thought it was time to give a Maori a go, if we are to take Richard Randerson, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell at his word.

The Church's selection procedures may be a mystery, but its public relations are clearly a disaster. Only two days after Bishop Vercoe's interview was published in the Herald, the very same Dr Jamieson, the world's first female Anglican Bishop, was made a distinguished companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. No doubt Bishop Vercoe will be busy on the day of the ceremony.

Also awarded was Witi Ihimaera, who happens to be Maori and gay, which is queer, given that Bishop Vercoe says homosexuality is not only "unnatural" but an "abomination" to the "dark races". Even queerer is that the Bishop claims to have gay relatives, who presumably are also Maori. He claims to love them, but only in that peculiarly Christian way of loving someone while disapproving of his sexuality.

As for women, it was "not culturally the right time" for one to become a Bishop in 1990, when Dr Jamieson got her mitre. It is still not the right time for a Maori woman to be ordained. The reason, however, is not sexism but "to do with Maori custom and protocol, of protecting women from any form of violence or ridicule in the public arena." That explains it: the Bishop is just protecting Maori women from getting good jobs in the Church.

Bigots often justify their prejudices with religion, but this Bishop uses race as well, a remarkable trick. Curiously, both Dr Jamieson and Richard Randerson explain the Bishop's views as an aspect of his "culture". Despite his learning and his high office, the Bishop evidently cannot escape the bonds of his culture and form his own opinions, unlike Mr Ihimaera and the Bishop's relatives. In some quarters this is called "ethical relativism", in others, "racism". Another term might be "moral cowardice": the Bishop makes statements which would be condemned by Dr Jamieson and Dean Randerson if they came from any other source, but here they are explicable because of the speaker's racial origins.

Others with more stomach for the task have filled this moral vacuum by stating that Maori do not have a cultural prejudice against homosexuality, such as Dr Leonie Pihama, Director of the International Research Centre on Indigenous Education and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku Radio NZ Maori issues correspondent. Incidentally, don't say you weren't warned: Dr Pihama was responding to claims made by Bishop Vercoe in November last year, that homosexuality did not exist in pre-contact Maoritanga.

The good news for Maori women clergy, is that the Bishop expects attitudes on the Marae to become more liberal, so they might just be ordained before they reach retirement age. The bad news for gays is that the Bishop expects and hopes that they will become unacceptable, because people will discover a "new morality", which seems very similar to the old bigotry.

The good news for those of us living in the 21st Century is that the Herald Interview provoked a deluge of letters, most of which deplored the Bishop's views. Criticism came from within the Anglican Church as well: the Rev Rob McKay, community theologian ki te Taitokerau, pointed out that homosexuality is neither a sin nor a sickness, a view which is probably more representative of the Church than Bishop Vercoe's.

The bad old bishop's words also prompted one Steve Murray to write to the Herald. Writing in the secret code of maximspeak (yes, its all about tolerance, relativism, post-modernism, once again) Steve says homosexuality is wrong because to do it is to break the Seventh Commandment, "thou shalt not commit adultery". Steve's interpretation of scripture extends the notion of adultery to any sexual activity outside marriage. What's more, failing to live by the Ten Commandments has caused all of society's problems. He has a point: the Second Commandment ( Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth) has been breached continually throughout human history, leading to all sorts of sin. The menace of Art must be stopped now. So, stop reading this and go and break up your children's crayons.

*************

New Standards in Christian Journalism

Can it get any worse? Yes it can. Until the Civil Unions Bill came along, fundy mag Challenge Christian Weekly was mostly concerned with uplifting stories about sports people who found Jesus just as their careers were nose-diving into obscurity. Now they are publishing sermons by Rick Mathes, an American prison chaplain who was removed from his sinecure. How could a prison chaplain be sacked? Here's how:

I was preaching Romans 1 to a packed out chapel of primarily sex offenders and homosexuals and it went something like this:

"I have a dog named Buffy and she is a girl dog. She goes out and she finds a boy dog and they get it on and she has puppies. She knows she's a girl and he knows he's a boy. All you have to do is look down your pants to find out what God made you to be. If you can't figure that out, you have less sense than my dog Buffy!"

I had been preaching against homosexuality for several weeks and from time to time had to have unruly inmates escorted out of the chapel. It was creating quite an uproar.

Note to applicants: creating an uproar in a prison is not a good career move.

The sheer utter nastiness of Rick Mathes is a wonder to behold. If you want to behold it, go to his website or read Challenge every week. His second posting for them was about belittling an Imam, who was also a fellow prison chaplain.

His website also contains a letter from a supporter, who says "Muslims are killing our troops in Iraq - not Christians. Need I say more?" No, sir, you have said all we need to know about you.

In the spirit of our motto, "we read this crap so you don't have to" we will keep you informed about Pastor Mathes. Somebody has to.

The Incredibly Strange Standards Society

The increasingly bizarre behaviour of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards reached new heights recently with a press release that shows an obvious case of irony deficiency.

Someone at SPCS evidently had been trawling the web for dirt when he visited the website of Becks Incredible Film Festival. Much to his delight, he found that the Festival had been declared dead by its organisers, who show its gravestone on the site. The SPCS rushed off a press release claiming some sort of victory.

If only they read the arts pages rather than tracts about hellfire and damnation. With a little research they would have found that the Incredible Film Festival has merged with the New Zealand Festival. So the films they find so objectionable will continue to be shown, but now with a bigger budget and more publicity.

In case they still have not got the point, the announcement of the Festival's death was a joke.

***************

Literature for Dummies

While on the subject of foot-in-mouth media releases, Maxim has pronounced its views on literature. According to an article in the Herald, Creative New Zealand chairman Peter Biggs quizzed secondary school students about New Zealand writers and came up with some risible answers. Seeing an opportunity to blame the lefties, Maxim decided that young people suffer from a "literature knowledge gap", caused by the politicisation of teaching in the 1970s, when "books began to be studied thematically." The author gives examples: "what had Dickens to say about the causes of poverty? Or Jane Austen about the role of women?" Quite a lot, one would have thought, but instead Maxim wants literature to connect the generations:

A teacher or a grandparent can no longer presuppose a rich and intimate understanding of things like metaphor and the images of myth, fairy tales and other good writing. The enrichment that accompanies the mutual enjoyment of stories and the insight that provides also need to be revived. It is not that "a terrible beauty is born" rather, we have a widening gap between the generations that needs to be bridged.

Leaving aside the Maxim author's grammar knowledge gap, he obviously needs some help with reading and comprehension: Peter Biggs' point was that children were not being taught New Zealand Literature, thematically or otherwise.

His teachers should also advise him to use quotations in context: "a terrible beauty is born" is a line from WB Yeats' poem Easter, 1916 and it refers to the outrage felt by the Irish people after the suppression of the Easter Rebellion. I learned that in the 1970s, when books began to be studied thematically.

The Fundy Post is written by Paul Litterick and is published spasmodically.


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