On the possibility of being racist


I’ve only really watched one of Chris Lilley’s shows, and it happened to be 2011’s Angry Boys. When I watched it, I felt a bit awkward about European-Australian comic Lilley portraying Japanese and African-American characters. I wondered how much Aboriginal people may have had a say in how their characters were portrayed. (During the show one of the Aboriginal actors ended up visiting our house because he had a cousin staying with us.) At the time I don’t remember hearing anyone asking these questions, and I appreciated that through the show Lilley seemed to be getting people to consider what might be going on behind what seemed to be a crisis of masculinity in our global society.

More recently, however, Lilley’s 2014 show Jonah from Tonga received a clear critique from Australia’s Tongan community. The problem was that ‘Jonah’ – a European man impersonating a stereotype of Tongan youth – had become the most recognisable public face of the Tongan community in Australia. It seems quite unfair for a member of the European majority to have power over how a relatively small cultural group is portrayed in the media. More recently the same show was axed by Māori Television in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by request from the Tongan community. It would be hard to imagine that Chris Lilley is still unaware that people feel he’s being racist by pretending to be a person of colour.

Last weekend Lilley was back in the public arena for the wrong reason. Just after a major protest related to the death of Elijah Doughty, Lilley tweeted a video clip from Angry Boys which seemed to be referring to Doughty’s death. Elijah Doughty was an Aboriginal boy who was run over by a European man in Kalgoorlie. It appears that the driver intended to run Doughty over, but he has been cleared of murder and manslaughter. In this context Lilley’s song ‘Squashed N***a’, about a black kid being run over, seemed like a pretty clear and dispicable reference to Doughty’s death. In response to the outcry about the video, Lilley deleted the tweet, then deleted his account. Later on he restored his account and posted an apology saying that he hadn’t meant to be racist.

I’ve dsaid this before, but we need to remember that we can’t be the only judges of whether we’ve been racist. If someone from another racial or cultural group suggests that we’ve been racist, we need to listen whether or not we’ve intended to be racist. If our words or behaviour are having a harmful impact on other cultural or racial groups we need to listen to that and change our behaviour. If Chris Lilley returns to television, I’ll be interested to see what he does. But Lilley’s disaster doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook. We need to be ready to listen when someone suggests that we’ve been racist.

D&D Beyond and outraged fans


The official launch date and pricings for D&D Beyond have been announced. The platform will be ready on August 15, and you can find the rest of the details here. There’s already a lot of fans complaining about being ‘forced’ to buy all of their books again. No-one who has all the books in print or on other digital platforms has to adopt this platform. I expect it will be a really convenient way for new people (who might not want print copies) to get into the game. In fact, I’d consider not buying any more print copies if this works well.

Should Christians be afraid of ‘no religion’?

This week census data was released. In the lead up to the census there was a big campaign encouraging folks to tick ‘no religion’. There was also a counter-campaign from some Christian groups desperately encouraging folks who were undecided to tick ‘Christian’, so that Australia wouldn’t become a Muslim country.

The data’s come back, and it looks like about half of Australians still identitfy as Christian. However, those who ticked ‘no religion’ were larger than any of the Christian denominations.

I don’t think it should be any surprise that all the churches are in decline. I also don’t think this is something Christians should be afraid of. Out of all the religions, we should be least afraid of death. Death and resurrection is what Christianity is all about. If the church dies, who knows what will come next?

Presence

Earlier in the week I noticed Kaitlin Curtice’s blog post, ‘People Who Hold Space Will Heal the Church’, and I’m interested in what she says about holding space. She basically says that the church (and I think a lot of other institutions too) like to try and manage people rather than holding space where transformation could occur. (Reminds me a lot of the stuff I’ve been re-reading in Henri Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out.

On a similar theme, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be present to someone.

Sometimes it just means what some of us might regard as trivial bullshit. Talking about the weather, exchanging friendly banter, talking shit…

But we need to be alert to when that’s not what’s needed, when our guest has something deep they need to talk about – illness, love, death, family…

We’ve also got to be attentive to when someone just needs silence or space.

Sometimes presence means sitting with someone. Something it means banter. Sometimes it means politeness. Sometimes it means eye contact. Sometimes it means (thank God) no eye contact. Sometimes it means depth. Its just being present to the person and situation and responding as appropriate.

Saying no to a good cause

I recently watched this short talk from Sarah Knight:


While I was watching the video I got in touch with someone saying no to something they’d asked me to do. I knew that was what I had to do even before I watched the video. In the video Knight says that we need to say no to things we don’t care about. I don’t think I have trouble with that. I find that often I do need to say no to things even though I care about them, because the folks who want me to be involved aren’t treating me well. (To reuse Knight’s language, they don’t give a fuck!) I need to remind myself that it’s not worth working with people who are going to treat me badly, even if the cause is good.

Is the story of the resurrection a myth?

At Easter I published a post where I said that we should treat the story of Jesus as mythology. Some folks said they were interested in what I mean by that. I started wondering what I really mean by that.

Dominic Crossan says that myths are stories that try to explain everything, make us at ease, close all the gaps, show us that everything makes sense and everything is as it should be. Myths explain everything. Myths don’t leave space for more speculation or conversation.

Parables, on the other hand, challenge mythology. Parables, disrupt, question and transform. Historically Christians have often read the parables of Jesus as though they answered questions and summed up reality, but in their original context they often challenged people’s assumptions.

Given Crossan’s definitions, would you say that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is mythology or parable?

You can’t missionise people, then accuse them of cultural appropriation


This ANZAC Day it seemed like we hit peak outrage. There’s been a lot said about Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s ‘Lest we forget’ Facebook post. But some senstive folks were also upset by the words of Kaurna elder Katrina Ngaitlyala Power, who mentioned in her Welcome to Country, that this land was invaded. People were also upset that Power paraphrased the 23rd Psalm to say, ‘though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Invasion’.

“We had to listen to a culturally misappropriated, bastardised version of the Psalm that included “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Invasion”,” the Grange resident said. – Craig Cook, ‘Speech of welcome by Aboriginal elder Katrina Ngaitlyala Power at Anzac dawn service referencing slavery condemned as too political’ The Adveriser April 25

I think it is ridiculous to say that this is cultural appropriation. In any case, I don’t think cultural appropriation is always a problem. But in this case, I don’t think anyone has any right to criticise Power for using the psalm in this way. Aboriginal people have this Psalm because European Christians gave it to them. In many cases Europeans forced their faith on Aboriginal people. We have no right now to accuse Aboriginal people for adapting texts and traditions that we gave to them, often at the expense of their own culture and religion.

I don’t think we have any right to be offended by Power’s refernces to invasion. If we are paying attention, we should be aware of this fact whenever we acknowledge country or are welcomed onto country.

Are you morally obligated to punch a Nazi?

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Photo from ‘Was a Protester Throwing Explosives into a Berkley Crowd Before She Was Punched?’ from Snopes.

 

Katherine Cross’ article ‘Why Punching Nazis Is not Only Ethical, but Imperative’ has come up in my newsfeed a couple of times. I find Katherine Cross’ argument helpful even though I don’t agree with it. I don’t think you can you teach someone that violence is wrong by use of violence. That said, there needs to be a response, and I think that punching a Nazi is better than doing nothing.
I agree that it’s important to show that these people aren’t as powerful as they would like to pretend. I think that was demonstrated by the person who punched Richard Spencer. I think it has also been demonstrated in Melbourne when anti-immigration rallies have been organised and the counter-rallies have swamped the original rallies. I think this is demonstrated by parody groups like the Million Flag Patriots, when they anger alt right groups by taking the piss.
Some of my concerns with the left choosing a violent response are the likelihood of escalation and of the possibility of the left becoming as much a threat to safety as the right.

More on practising resurrection


I thought I’d write a bit more about practising resurrection, after my Easter Sunday post

One of the reasons I was sick of seeing the articles arguing for or against an hisotircal, literal resurrection was that I am not convinced that arguing gets us anywhere. I think it stops us from hearing what the other has to say. I think people who write these arguments already know what they think and are looking for arguments to back up what they think.
In the Facebook thread where I posted what I’d written, some folks started arguing. 😉 I engaged a little bit, but didn’t want to get drawn into arguing. That was exactly what the original post was about! (My trust is that it was still encourgiung for the folks it was meant for. I hope that folks who didn’t find it helpful are able to let it go.)

I don’t want to get involved in arguing this question because I just don’t know. But I do find myself inspired by and caught up in this story. I believe it because I’ve experienced people acting in the way Jesus did. (If you want you can read about that in a post I wrote last year.)

I don’t know whether Jesus’ followers met with a Jesus who was literally resurrected. I don’t know whether they simply meant that they experienced his corporeal presence in the body of believers or among the poor of Galillee. I find both possibilities inspiring as I try to practise resurrection, or at least not get in the way of others as they practise.

I’m going to finish today’s post there. It doesn’t mean this is finished. If you think it’s not finished, feel free to write a response. Or let me know if you think there’s more I should be exploring.

‘Nothing about us without us’


I’ve just watched this video (it’s a Facebook link, but it should still work if you’re not a Facebook user) of Idil Ali from RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees speaking at the Palm Sunday rally on the weekend. I had trouble hearing most of the speakers from where I was. But I think she was also saying earlier on that all of the speakers at the rally should have been refugees. (If I misheard or if it was someone else, please let me know.) This year there were more refugees speaking than the previous year, so I was initially thinking that Ali was asking a bit much by expecting that all of the speakers should be refugees or asylum seekers. That’s what I said when Beth asked me yesterday what I thought.

But as I thought about it more later, I realised that it shouldn’t seem like a big ask. If all of the groups that are represented have refugees or asylum seekers involved (and I’m pretty sure they do) it shouldn’t be hard for them to let a refugee or asylum seeker from their group represent them.