(Above: keep these images in mind for the homily that lurks below)
The pond is well down the path of abstaining from Australian media - what do you know, Crikey's last final offer suddenly remained open for another month - but it turns out that reading The Guardian carries more than its proper share of risks.
It's terribly easy to stumble across someone like Owen Hatherley writing a bizarre denunciation of pop-up stores, in Pop-ups are papering over our crumbling social structures.
Now the pond is neither for nor against pop-ups - the last one to be noticed in Newtown was, of all things, an exercise in Britishness, a pop-up for Dr. Who fans - but doesn't see much point in getting extremely agitated about a retail strategy, given how much retail has shifted online.
After reading Owen Hatherley's combination of rank prejudice and a desire for a capitalist apocalypse which pop-ups seemed to be preventing or obscuring, the pond looked him up and he seemed remarkably young to be sounding like an English eccentric ...
But already it was possible to spot all the signs in this spectacularly bilious bit of trolling, though it only delivered a disappointing couple of hundred comments. No doubt in earlier times Hatherley would have started his career by writing angry letters to The Times ... (a wag started off the comments, generally hostile to Hatherley, by noting that The Guardian had recently opened up a pop-up coffee shop).
But since pop-ups are the theme of the day, it was even more remarkable to stumble across Matthew Engelke popping up with Christianity and atheism are two sides of the same coin.
For a piece written by an alleged anthropologist, it was a singularly silly and narrow-minded piece, offering up the standard sorts of inanities to be found amongst fellow travellers with Christians. It seems fair to call Engelke a fellow traveller:
At the breakfast we recited the Lord's prayer. We sang a hymn and we listened to a gospel reading. There were other prayers too: one for the government (delivered by a Labour MP, who joked about the irony), one for parliament and one for the nation.
It turns out that he's an American amongst the British, and delusional in the timeless artless unsophisticated American way, like a naive hero in a Henry James novel beguiled by the peculiar rituals of the English (sardines, brollies, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse and top hats, wot wot):
Faith or no faith, and whether you're enthusiastic, indifferent or apoplectic, the breakfast is a brilliant example of why public ritual matters. Those of us with no faith have a lot to learn about the value of halting the normal rhythms of life and stopping to reflect. We could all benefit from prayer breakfasts, or at least something akin to such a metaphysical break.
Yes, of course, atheists have no knowledge of the normal rhythms of life, nor do they ever stop to reflect, nor do they ever indulge in metaphysical breaks. The y'artz are simply beyond them, and ecstatic moments are reserved to the pleasure of listening to the snap, crackle and pop of rice bubbles.
It culminated with this piece of specious tosh:
Christianity and atheism are two sides of the same coin.
Yes only a Henry James dullard could offer that kind of dualism, placing christianity centre stage. If it had been written in a sensible way, it would have noted that there are many other gods than the christian god, and fitting all of them, and agnosticism in all of its hues, and atheism in all its pantheist variability on a single coin, would have required a very large and multi-faceted coin.
Yes, for unctuous blather Engelke took the cake:
At the moment, their relationship to one another is often antagonistic, but for unbelievers the sentiment – if not the sacral nature – of the prayer breakfast should be taken seriously.
Why? Why should anyone ape the rituals of foolish believers? Why dress up a breakfast with friends as anything more than an enjoyable start to the day?
Do you have to start off the day with a prayer breakfast when you Gather on the Green, and stare at the bizarre joggers doing their thing on Camperdown Oval? And meditate on their knee caps? (well maybe not this Sunday, thank you long absent lord for the relentless drizzle).
Naturally Engelke's piece sent the punters into a frenzy, attracting over 2,000 comments, and reminding the pond that writing letters to The Times, or The Guardian or whatever else, remains a very British business.
There must be an algorithm that works out the number of letters that will be written, directly proportional to the amount of trolling nonsense an Engelke can work into a paragraph.
And if that wasn't enough Britishness, over the weekend the pond got around to doing an upgrade on Apple TV, and what should turn up but Sky News, British version, and for free (though you may need an American Apple account for that to work for you).
There were any number of bizarre sights - David Cameron togged out in colonialist kit defending Tony Blair and the business of the Afghanistan war, in the context of Armed Forces day, with a lot of toys in red marching around with something like bearskins on their noggins. Kill all the bears!
We keed, we keed, but even more bizarre was the news that the head of British operations, one Lieutenant-General Nick Carter, had worked out that it might have been wise to sit down and have a chat with the Taliban back in 2002! (And what do you know, David Cameron and army divided over Afghanistan role after 2014).
Never mind, by close of business, the pond had had an over-dose of Britishness, and it was time instead to turn to the angry Sydney Anglicans.
As usual, there were all sorts of pop-ups for the Jensenist heresy, led by the chief Jensenist, who seems to be taking a long time to say his farewells while donning a fearsome bearskin rug attitude:
Never give up, never surrender, said Buzz Lightyear, and naturally the Jensenist story is headed Archbishop says don't retreat.
Which is foolish advice, since the angry Sydney Anglicans wisely retreated from the folly of their website design (and still no cheque in the post to the pond for its advice).
In the usual megalomaniac angry Sydney Anglican way, Jensen makes a claim for Anglicans to be able to interfere in everything, and societal structures and people's thinking, all in the guise of loving thy neighbour when in reality it's like any other overbearing, interfering, intrusive busy body sticking an unwanted finger in the pie:
Dr Jensen believes there is a biblical imperative for speaking. “The Bible delivers an particular way of thinking about human beings, an anthropology. We believe that it is true, life-giving and universal. We belong to Christ and teach the Biblical revelation to all” the Archbishop says. “We have his mandate to speak whatever the society, the state or the human structures. This arises from love of God and love of neighbour”.
Stumble across any other fanatical cult follower in the street and you'll get the same universalist delusional story.
And there's the problems in a nutshell. Angry Sydney Anglicans never shut up, and still routinely blather old Testament nonsense about Adam and Eve, and why that's a role model for relationships and men and women today. Not to mention using the old testament as an ongoing reason to persecute gays and their rights, without pausing to think if you really should still be using the fables, myths and thoughts of camel herders for cosmology, physics and chemistry.
Dr Jensen says Anglicans, and Christians generally, should engage by using the resources of the Biblical revelation, having a coherent view of what it is to be human and seeking to demonstrate that the Biblical revelation actually makes sense of human life and experience.
“We must not be afraid to do so and we must not be silenced by any false ideology which removes our right to do so. We have to trust that God’s way for human well-being and flourishing as revealed in law and gospel, is best” the Archbishop says.
The trouble of course is that as with all cults, which blather about false ideology, the imperative of any messianic delusion is that the cult must be the one true possessor of what makes sense of human life and experience, and followers must therefore spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to everyone else how they've got it wrong.
There coule be no better example of the offensiveness of this delusionalism than the other story given front page prominence, Phillip Jensen's Terminating Violent Euphemisms.
It's a first class example of an old preacher trick. Seize on a worldly event - in this case a radio discussion of words that make people squirm - and then, in a violently euphemistic way, put a worm in the eye of the reader, and lead them into a state of horror about a woman's right to control her body, and determine whether or not she might have an abortion.
It all builds to a guilt trip, all the chatter about weasel words and the violence of language and the violence of killing, and the preposterous notion that Arnold Schwarzenegger was called the Terminator because somehow the word is a euphemism. The pond felt like terminating Jensen with extreme prejudice ... (yes you have to know your movies in a way the Jensenists can never manage)
Really, what planet do the Jensenists live on? But do go on:
‘Termination’ may be a more acceptable and politically correct euphemism for abortion but as with all euphemisms it clouds the discussion in confusion, does not work in removing the pain and prevents women talking freely and finding forgiveness.
Yes, there it is, a guilt trip for women, who can only find forgiveness by seeking a Jensenist offering forgiveness.
Abortion is difficult enough without controlling mind and word games, or clap trap and condescension, and chatter about women needing to find forgiveness.
It was a stark reminder to the pond of what must surely be the ultimate Christian mystery - why any woman or gay would willingly be a member of the Sydney Anglican community.
If you come across an example, surely you have witnessed a miracle deeper than turning water into a decent bit of plonk, or the multiplying of bread and fishes for a bloody good nosh up. (One of the original pop-ups ...?)
Enough already of all this nonsense popping-up. As it happens, the pond has had standing by a guide to the world of Anglican women, and here it is. Click to enlarge: