First this Sunday let us consider mammon, and determine whether it is wise to give unto Caesar what is Caeser's?
Or will Caesar just go the snatch and grab, and wisdom's got nothing to do with it?
You can imagine the pond's reaction to the news that the federal government will confiscate the cash in inactive bank accounts after three years, when the previous period was seven.
There it all is, in Cash Grab: Inactive bank accounts to be seized.
You can get it back from ASIC, but imagine dealing with bureaucrats to reclaim your cash. It's a profoundly cynical manoeuvre, with no exemptions or considerations for anyone who might actually do what governments in previous years urged the wise to do - put their money in an account, and let it quietly sit and earn interest, and on no account get it out to play the pokies.
Is this ethical behaviour? Discuss, or don't, as fits your whim and mood.
Now let's turn to the other side of the equation, which is to give unto god what is god's, and absolutely not, no way Jose, give unto ethics classes what you give to the god botherers.
It seems it's absolutely not on, as you can read in Ethics classes at risk as plea for tax relief refused:
The future of ethics classes in NSW is in doubt, the provider says, after the federal government refused to allow it to collect tax-deductible donations in the same way providers of scripture classes in state schools do.
Funds established for providing religious instruction in public schools in Australia can claim Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status, a provision that is used by some religious groups to fund training and support for scripture classes in NSW.
The provider of ethics classes, Primary Ethics, which receives no government funding, made a special application to the federal government to also be granted DGR status, to fund ongoing training of its own volunteers and to develop its curriculum.
The chairman of Primary Ethics, Bruce Hogan, said the organisation was surprised when that request was recently rejected by the federal government, despite the growing demand for ethics classes in this state.
Now why does this rattle the bars of the cage of the pond?
A spokesman for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney confirmed it has a fund which has DGR status used to fund special religious education in schools.
Yes, those prattling priests of the Sydney Anglican school of taxpayer cash in the paw, who prate on about homosexuality and want to denude gays and women of assorted rights, based on their understanding of Adam and Eve as a guide to human relationships, get the chance to peddle their superstitious nonsense to innocent school students, yet the federal government, ostensibly headed by an atheist, refuse to allow a tax break for the provider of ethics classes.
Now it should be breaks for all, or breaks for none.
Instead the federal government is supporting this right for Jensenist babble to get a financial edge over ethics in schools.
Here, cop a gob-smacked load of this from Phillip Jensen at Idolatry and the God of History:
I love art. I have to say that because nobody believes I do when I speak on idolatry. It's the same with music. I have to protest my love of music whenever I question something about the use of music in Christian life. My protestations matter little to those who have art or music as their idols. However, I hope that you, dear reader, will not dismiss my criticisms as the mere prejudice of a Philistine. I do love art.
What on earth is he on about?
You'd have to be a tad crazy to have art or music as idols, unless you have the most superficial and simplistic understanding of the purpose, nature and uses of art. Did we mention Phillip Jensen?
Of course art and music have been around for a long time, and offer alternative ways of dealing with the world, the ineffable, the mysterious, the human, the mystical and the sublime, as can be seen in Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, where cave art and music both get a 35,000 year old guernsey.
Which is why Jensen chooses to trivialise art in the most banal ways imaginable:
In our visual society we idolise ‘the beautiful people’. Their lives might be chaotic and destructive but they photograph well. The things that matter in a visual society are the physical, athletic and sexual. A good-looking sports star is the 'idol' of our age. That his contribution to the welfare of society is minimal, or that he is in fact a bad role model for the next-generation, or that he is ill-prepared and unable to live up to the hype of his promoters is all an irrelevance. Mass media churns through the idols with little concern for the damage we do them or the damage they do us. The constant and overexposed presentation of sexual themes in our society has led to the problems of the sexualisation of children, the body shape anxiety of our teenagers, and the plague of pornography in our community.
WTF? He starts off with art, and somehow sport and beautiful people and the mass media and porn is dragged into the conversation?
It's not that everything auditory is good and everything visual is bad. Music can become an auditory idol as much as art can become a visual one.
Yes, it's completely incoherent conflation and confusion, as if there's a natural progress from porn to Beethoven.
And then for some strange delusional reason Jensen goes Islamic:
It is not simply that God spoke to Moses without showing himself visually, for the Lord Jesus Christ was God become man – 'the image of the invisible God'.
Invisible? Hasn't he seen Cecil B. deMille's The Ten Commandments, silent or talkie, take your pick?
Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
There's your bloody idolatry, kneeling and talking to a bush, on the bush's say so that it's god!
In the old days, go talk to the bush was as much fun as go talk to the hand.
Aesthetically speaking, what a tawdry and wretched bit of visualisation of the invisible god it is, though you have to hand it to deMille, he understood the vulgarity and cheap taste of the Christian demographic.
Next thing you know you'll have blonde haired blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter playing Jesus because you can't underestimate the vulgarity of the Christian demographic (did we mention all those bloody baby in a manger scenes? Why even a shark formaldehyde makes more aesthetic sense ...)
Jensen is greatly taken with a very old fashioned Anglo-centric academic historian, by name Butterfield, who enthusiastically celebrates the God of History (that old testament chappie) and denounces the God of Nature (hippies, Baalites and such like):
The lapses into nature-worship on the other hand, far from promoting any advance in ethical standards, appear to have been accompanied by licentiousness and immorality.
Uh huh. So please explain how the God of History helped the Chinese develop the longest running civilisation doing the rounds, bar indigenous people, who also handily have their own art, music and religion?
Back to the Jensenist nonsense:
It is as Prof Butterfield argued: the God who relates by covenant promise creates an ethical conversation about his promises and our obligations; whereas the gods of nature relate on the basis of power, experience, and sensuality. This viewpoint accords with the Old Testament descriptions of idolatry as well as the New. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:1 to 22 tells us of Israel's disastrous flirtations with idolatry in order to warn us to flee from it, and in Romans 1:18 to 32 he explains the central degeneracy of his age in terms of idolatry. Professor Butterfield was right about the ‘God of History’. It's not that he is an historian or that I don’t like art, it’s just that idolatry is wrong.
Deep down, there seem to be only two choices. Jensen doesn't like art, or he doesn't have the first clue about art. There are no alternatives.
What on earth is this jibber jabber about ethics, and idolatry and art? Drag out an ancient Anglo-centric historian and think the job is done?
Is this what the Sydney Anglicans get a tax break for, while sensible people wanting to talk about ethics don't get a look in? Talk about the fix being in ...
Naturally it turns out that the Catholic church also has a number of DGRs in hand, at least if you can believe Philanthropy Australia, which notes that the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, and Catholic Care in Melbourne and Sydney are as usual busy sticking their paws into government largesse, and that's before we get on to Vinnies and other shop fronts with paws held out for cash.
So the Pellists also get a free kick, spreading ethical confusion and chaos, as Cardinal Pell manages in his opening to last week's ramblings for the Sunday Terror, under the header Project Compassion:
Apparently Wikipedia claims that Protestants believe that people are saved and rewarded in the next life by faith in Jesus Christ and that Catholics believe they are saved through good works.
These claims are unfair to both groups, because while no one is good enough to deserve heaven, faith in Jesus Christ has to be expressed in active love.
Uh huh. Actually if you read the wiki on Catholic v Protestant, you will see that Pell has grossly defamed and distorted what it says, presumably because he needed a cheaply phrased bit of magnanimity to start off his column (Proddies are people too, even if inferior and essentially graceless).
And it will of course come as no surprise that Pell proceeds to spend the rest of the column boasting about the good works of the Catholic church and Caritas, without any apparent awareness of the inherent contradiction, which a good ethics class given a tax break could point out in a trice.
Sadly the pond is over the Catholic church at the moment. Everybody's paying too much attention to its CEO crisis (or should that be executive chair), and not enough to the possibilities of frocks on parade, with this gorgeous display when the Cardinals met the Pope in early February:
Why is there not a single Australian reporter in Rome to report on the frocks as the Cardinals go about their business? Who said politics and religion and secret reports of amazing corruption can't mingle with fashion?
Anyway, the church's internal mayhem, corruption, cronyism and is being well covered in the media.
The AFR ran a piece by Der Spiegel this weekend, with the header Paradise Lost, but thanks to the wonders of the full to overflowing intertubes, you can simply head off to Der Spiegel online, and read the report in the English language version here under the more beguiling header Zero Hour at the Vatican: A Bitter Struggle for Control of the Catholic Church ... in four parts and ... for free.
Yes, there's real journalism to be found, but Fairfax likes to pick it up on the cheap and on the sly, as you would a suit from a Singapore tailor, and pass off the threads as all their own thread-bare work.
Thank the absent lord that there's an ethical solution to the dilemma of a Fairfaxian paywall.
At least there's been one upside this week, because there wasn't any legal or tax break for a quartet who whipped a fellow Islamic "out of love" for having a drink and taking drugs, deciding that they'd apply their own quaint version of Sharia law (Sydney sharia victim whipped 'out of love' - forced video at end of link - maybe they also had an application for DGR status in progress).
Now the pond doesn't mind what people do for kicks in the privacy of their own home. If you want to wear a cilice and draw blood, Opus Dei style, to remind yourself you believe in talking to a burning bush, feel free.
If you don't mind a backside paddle, or find a whipping sexually stimulating, don't let the pond stand in your way. Go for it.
But when in the name of religion you think you can deliver a common assault in the name of your peculiar understanding of your god, why that's a bit of a problem.
It brings to mind the bad old days when public and religious schools both thought they had the right to assault, in a most common and vulgar way, students, whether with cane, or Christian brothers leather strap, or Dominican nuns' hard-edged wooden ruler.
Now to be fair sundry imams walked as far away as they could from the matter, which also involved theft, but the issue of consent is one that an ethics class could discuss all day, and come up with much more sensible answers than churches which have long sought to preserve the right to mortify the flesh and the minds of their followers.
The magistrate said that until now "assaults occasioned in the course of a religious practice involving mortification of the flesh have not been before any court in any common law country".
Amazing when you think about it, given the mortifications that still routinely occur. Why only a little while ago, a reader drew attention to the suffering and mortifications of an Anglican minister:
Oh the suffering, oh the humanity.
Meanwhile, if you happen to be in an ethics class, but have a taste for a little of the old dom-sub routine, bear in mind what the magistrate added:
Magistrate Maloney drew a parallel with the law not allowing the consent of masochists to be a defence in charges of assault causing serious physical injury.
He noted the same in the case of "uncivilised" consensual street fights.
No "Fight Club" for you ...
For the moment, it seems there's nothing to stop mental assault causing serious mental injury, of the kind you might experience when you read Phillip Jensen explain how liking music and the musicians who made it, and art and the artists who created it, constitutes a form of idolatry, while at the same time Anglicans flog monstrous stable art of the most hideous kind.
Here you go, still being flogged by Anglicare:
That's not art, that's idolatry. Why, it's like proposing that this is art:
The only music you could hum while looking at either of them would be the very worst of Hillsong.
Now here's some art. Click to enlarge, and see how Jensen wraps the briars:
And while we're at it, how about a poem by Rumi - wiki him here - a thirteenth century and Sufi mystic.
There's more sense in this short piece than in all the thousands of words of jibber jabber by the Jensenists.
Come to think of it, there's more to be gained by contemplating a grain of sand, and seeing the universe in it, which is why the Jensenists resent art so much ...