Every so often, it dawns on the pond that Michael Jensen, and by extension, Sydney Anglicans don't have the first clue as to what they're talking about.
Jensen is now up episode three in his seven sins of Sydney - 7 Sins of Sydney 3: Loyalty to Mates - having established in the first ep that living in a fine town house such as Bishopscourt (with housekeeper) in Darling Point is morally suspect, and in the second ep that gambling on the stock exchange, and losing lots of church moola is also suspect.
But now his third piece is about loyalty to mates, and to cut it short - Jensen is always prolix - it seems we should be first of all mates in Christ, and not so matey with others.
Here's the problem. Jensen spends a lot of time discussing the Australian national myth of mateship, evoking Henry Lawson, and the gold fields and the first world war, but what's this got to do with Sydney in particular or in general?
A long gone history professor of the pond's acquaintance, Russell Ward, made his name and a tenuous career berating undergraduates in Armidale and showing a Lawsonish taste for the grog, by writing his book The Australian Legend (they kept him away from a plumb ANU gig to his eternal despair because of a flirtation with the Communist party).
The point Ward made was that the legend and the mateship mythology came from the bush, not the city. And because I'm too lazy to hunt out my copy, take it away Baron Alder:
Ward’s objective in The Australian Legend was to trace the historical basis for the Australian “national mystique” and he found it in the disproportionate influence of the mores and manners of the outback proletariat over the rest of Australian society.
Yes, if it's a sin, then first of all, it's a sin of the bush and the bushman:
The working-class attitudes of the convicts (whom Ward referred to as Australia’s “founding fathers”), the plebeian self-consciousness of the native-born (which Manning Clark might have been referring to when he spoke of “New World vulgarity”) and the fabled rebellious spirit of the Irish immigrants, all went “up the country” and coalesced in the ideal of the bushman.
And the bush worker:
According to Ward, through the trade unions, through publications such as the Bulletin in Sydney and the Worker in Queensland, through popular song and through the popular literature of Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson, the attitudes and values of the bush worker became the “principal ingredient” in an Australian, as opposed to an imperial, nationalism. The “bushman was axiomatically more ‘Australian’” and those hoping to distinguish themselves as Australians affected his manners, dress and turns of phrase. (here)
So if he'd been serious, Jensen really should have established how the bush mythology jumped to the suburbs, and above all to Sydney Anglicans:
There’s something powerfully good about mateship. True mateship is a rare gift and has historically given Australian males a sweet taste of security in the midst of hardship.
At last, an explanation of why Sydney Anglicans persecute women and gays. It's the mateship, the comradeship, that gives them a sweet taste of security and power in the midst of hardship.
Jensen nails the problem in one:
The strength of the mateship bond is also double-edged because of the way in which it includes by excluding. With mateship there has to be a common opponent. There’s always an outsider – someone we won’t include, and whose very exclusion strengthens our mateship bond. If the mate can do no wrong, it is very likely that everyone else can.
Take it away 1 Timothy 2:11-12, show us how to be excluding:
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Yes, that sounds like a firm basis for solid Anglican teaching, and the exclusion of women from ordination (why that topic even has its own wiki here).
So the funniest thing is when Jensen gets on to the way that mateship deals a blow to women:
It has become a rather standard complaint of those who want to criticise the mateship myth that it was exclusively male. It celebrates masculine characteristics and the chiefly male experience of bonding at work and in wartime. It imagines a virtuous life for men without women – even against women as the common enemy.
Why that sounds very much like the Sydney Anglicans.
At its worst, the mateship ethos divides the genders. And it gives women two options: to be either ‘damned whores, or God’s police’. They are either the objects of the mateship adventure, or the stern face of moral purity. A man once told me of an experience he had on a bus trip to a sporting weekend with a group of work-mates. As the bus left the city, all the men took their wedding rings off.
The code of mateship demands of course that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’. At its worst, it is excuse for men to behave badly.
But of course you don't need to go on tour with the Sydney Anglicans to make sure that women can never put on their vestments, let alone take them off, and that when it comes to gays and women, they will behave badly.
Anyhoo, by tract's end, it seems that the solution to mateship and Sydney Anglicans lies in Christ. And that's when we return to the exclusionary principle that Jensen found and berated in mateship:
The friendship to which Jesus calls us and which he offers us is made available by sharing in his sacrifice of himself. It forms a triangle that redeems mateship – friends in Jesus are first of all friends with Jesus.
Yes, it's hard to be mates with liberal secularists. And by the way we're all sinners:
In each piece I have tried to include a reference to the way in which churches and/or Christians are themselves part of the 'sin' that we are describing and analysing.
Yes indeed, it seems Sydney siders are all bushmen at heart, 'Chips' Rafferty types at one with a stereotype that was long in the tooth when 'Chips' was refining his persona in Forty Thousand Horsemen ... and yes that was city mateship at its finest, since Charles Chauvel didn't get much beyond the Cronulla sand dunes ...
But apart from the historical sins of Jensen, confusing and conflating city and bush and mateship and nationalism and ancient stereotypes, the pond could have done with a lot more lashing of Sydney Anglicans for their exclusive and exclusionary male mateship rituals ...
Now there's a sin easy to describe and analyse.
Can someone explain how the Salvation Army can end up with a female General, Linda Bond, while Sydney Anglicans end up with a flock of Jensens? And don't think Linda's a first. Evangeline Booth was the first female General way back in 1934 ...
What's needed is less talk of the evils of mateship, and more talk of the first female Anglican archbishop of Sydney ...
Oh okay, it's Sunday, and the pond is in dreaming mode.
Why it's even possible to forgive Michael Jensen for his continual quoting of The Whitlams as some kind of musical highlight ...
But at such moments - when Christians talk of love and friendship and blood sacrifice and the naughtiness of mateship and drag out the wretched Tim Freedman - the pond prefers a little William Blake and his songs of experience. Click to enlarge: