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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry Two

Still not writing as much as I should. But let's give you folks a bit of an update.

Since I last checked in, we are now just over three weeks out from opening night, which is a little scary. But, more importantly, our stage has been built! It's looking pretty amazing, and you'll just have to come and see it rather than taking my word for it ;) There's still a bit left to build, but the big stuff is done.

This Sunday is our first full-day rehearsal. It's where things really start in earnest. There's still plenty left to do - like get lights happening, sounds working, music alongside it all, costumes on, props getting used, and lines down! It seems like a lot, because it is. But we have an amazing team, and an incredible cast, and I know we can do it. I'm just really excited that it's all happening, and still have to pinch myself sometimes that we're actually doing this.

I keep being reminded of how much of an analog it is to events happening today. For those that aren't familiar with much of the storyline; a group of girls are discovered dancing in the woods, and rather than say what they were actually doing, they accuse other people of bewitching them. At the time they lived in a theocracy, so religion, government, and the judicial system were all very much intertwined. And witchcraft was punishable by hanging. So the people accused could either go to the noose; or confess, and give up more names. What followed was an absolute tirade of names that was released, and a ridiculous number of people put in the jail and arrested. However, only twenty were executed before a halt was put to it.

These days - depending on which country you live in - the death penalty isn't around as much. But you certainly still have a demonisation of minorities, of the "other". Because of course, it was the slave from Barbados that was first accused; and then the women, particularly the poor or those that were considered immoral. These days, we find similar things occurring to refugees or immigrants; Muslims; women who have abortions or have been raped; the homeless; people from the Middle East; and many other groups besides. Governments have literally been elected based on an "us vs them" strategy. Anyone fancy building a wall? I hear there are spots going over in America....oh, and in Europe, now, too.

We don't quite have a Trump in power yet, but we do have offshore detention centres still keeping people out of our society that we think are "too dangerous" for some reason. They don't even get the chance to be heard by most of the country - they're just locked away, for who knows how long, like rats in a cage. Australia isn't always the "young and free" we'd like to think we are.

There are some, by the way, that would like to link this "invisible crime" of witchcraft to the similarly often invisible crime of rape, or sexual abuse, with things like the multiple scandals within the church of sexual abuse of children, or the #MeToo movement that was still fairly recent. But even though there are similarities - they could not be further apart. Rape is very real. Sexual abuse is very real. False reporting in both these instances is a tiny percentage - what is much more common is an absence of reporting. Some people would like to think that their idols and heroes really hadn't done all that, and these people are just liars trying to besmirch their names....but no. While I'm not saying that can't happen or is never the case, that's not what you should be comparing this to. In the vast majority of cases, those coming forward with stories of rape or sexual assault are extremely brave and vulnerable individuals who have been hurt in really serious and devastating ways. Don't try to cut them down again.

But there are many other parallels that you can see between The Crucible and our modern society. When you do come along (I'll say when, not if ;) ), you can decide for yourself which parallel seems most apparent to you. Or perhaps you'll just be taken in by the emotion of the story in itself. It has a lot of power. Either way, please join us in just over three weeks on stage, as we tread the (somewhat creaky) boards at Campbelltown Theatre to show the town of Salem in 1692, and what happened there. You can buy tickets here:

Thursday, 9 May 2019

The Crucible Diaries: Entry One.

I've needed to do a bit of a write-up on this for a while. I won't be able to put everything into one post, so I'll break it up a bit, and intersperse it with developments as they happen.

I thought it might be a good idea to log down some of my ideas around The Crucible. For those that don't know, I'm directing it at the moment with the Campbelltown Theatre Group. We go on stage near the end of June. It's been a long road to get here, but a worthwhile one.

I first fell in love with The Crucible when I was introduced to it, as many are, during high school English. It immediately captivated me. It was a historical drama, and I had a love for both history and drama. It played with ideas of religion, politics, family, and society, ideas that I was fascinated with or passionate about.

But the real thing that grabbed me about this play were the characters. They were real. They weren't just token people, put in there for no reason - these were real people, who lived real lives, that had depth, meaning, intentions, emotions, relationships. You could feel that, through the story and the writing. And the suffering and pain that these people went through - it was intense. You don't really see anyone at their best; everyone is under stress, under strain, going through trials and tribulations and being put through the crucible to see if they come out the other side. Many didn't - or at least, not alive.

Many actors have a dream role they want to play. This was my dream play to direct. Ever since I read it in high school, over ten years ago now, this story has stayed with me, and these characters have stayed with me. I knew that I wanted to bring this story to life on stage. A few years back, I borrowed a script from a friend, and then bought one online, to start getting ideas for how it might look and feel. I read through it repeatedly. I dove into Miller's notes on it, which were quite detailed. And last year, I got the opportunity to make a submission for a show. I hastily put as much of a team together as I could. 

The submission was accepted.

I didn't have much of an idea of what to do next. I had never directed a show before, and my first stint as assistant director was late last year. I would be learning as I went. I gathered more team members, and started to garner interest for auditions. I knew that this would be a big show that a lot of people would be keen to audition for, but it also had a big cast - twenty two. I needed to get as many to auditions as I could, particularly guys. The split was basically fifty-fifty of male to female parts, but that's never the ratio you see at the theatre. And these were some big, weighty parts, that needed to be done well. I didn't want to stuff this up.

My assistant director ended up being one of my old teachers from primary school, funnily enough. I'd worked with him before on a show, but not for a few years. He was pretty keen, and it felt like things were coming full circle. I also had another experienced director on the team that would be overseeing things, and brought many years of stagecraft and skill to the mix. I had a good friend on sound, and our go-to man was happy to do lights again. Stage manager was trickier to lock down, but the experienced person we had on team said she'd take care of that for now. And costumes. And props. She wears a lot of hats!

Auditions came around, and thankfully, we had some great talent there, and a good number of people. A few more would have been nice, but we managed okay. At the end of the day, we had almost all of our roles filled. But we had a couple of backups that might be able to fill in, and they were smaller roles. We were doing okay.

You might not know, by the way, why it's called The Crucible. It's not a word we use that frequently these days. A crucible was something used in metalwork, and smithing. It was a small metal or ceramic pot, into which you would put pieces of metal. You'd then heat the whole thing up ridiculously hot, to turn the metal inside to liquid. You'd be able to remove the impurities. You'd then pour it out into something else.

The word has since been used metaphorically, in a similar way to the phrase trial by fire, if you like. It's a test of sorts, to see whether you would come out the other side. But it's designed to refine and bring out the best - even though the heat can be intense.

The metaphor is apt in many senses. Witches used to be put through many 'tests' to see if they were witches; generally speaking, if they died they were innocent, and if they lived they were guilty. It was pretty messed up.
The people of Salem went through a test of their own, of sorts. Though most survived, none were the same afterwards. I don't know if you can say they were 'purified', though some may have tried to for a while. They were Puritans, after all.
The process of putting this show on stage has been a trial in itself. Directing a show is no mean feat, particularly for the first time. Most of the time I'm making it up as I go along. I don't know what's going to come out the other side. So far, it's looking pretty good. But I'm no prophet, or soothsayer. I'll see how it goes as I go along, and that's all I can do.
I've been going through somewhat of a personal crucible myself. I won't go through that now, but if you've been reading some of my more recent posts, you'll know what I mean.

This show has been many years in the making, and a lot of hours and work have gone into it, mostly not from me. It's a big team, for a big show. I'll leave it here for now, but I'll be doing a few more posts about it as things travel along.

But if you want to come and see it - tickets are on sale now! It is a limited season, so don't wait until opening night to get your seats. Click on the link here, and you'll find all the information you need to come see this incredible production on stage.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Dreams, Money, Family, and God

Hey folks! Apologies I haven't been keeping up with the blog series, should be doing the next post in that sometime this week. But I had another thought come to mind that I wanted to work through on here, so that's what I'm doing.

Heading back to thoughts about work and the like.
A few times, people have said to me something along the lines of, the creative stuff that you're doing is great and all, but that's a dream. By focusing on that, you're sacrificing safety, stability, security, etc. And that's an understandable argument; but one that, to some degree, you can argue against. After all, if you look in the Bible at some of what Jesus says, you'll see fairly quickly that he's not really about safety, stability, or security. In fact, he's very much about risk, challenge, the unknown, trust.

But then, people pull out their trump card. They say that by chasing these dreams, you're sacrificing family.

And that's a gut punch. The classic reference here is 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT; "But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." I've had that one quoted at me before. And yeah, that hits a sore spot. Nobody wants to feel like they're letting down their family, that they've failed their family. And particularly as I come towards starting a family of my own, and being married at the start of next year - these fears and worries are very much real, and alive.

Then, however, I remembered something. Which may seem small - but I don't think so. Because the thing is, this isn't just a dream that I have, something that I want to do because I like the sound of it or whatever.
Instead, this is something that has repeatedly and continuously been put onto my heart by God. He has been constantly and consistently been calling me back to the albums and songs that I've written. To the book that I'm working on. To preaching. To establishing a creative community. To being there for the broken and the hurting. Yes, these are things that I'm passionate about - but that's a passion that God has placed there himself. This is a calling that God has given.

And when we reframe it this way, we suddenly have a very different discussion. Because we're no longer talking about chasing dreams or supporting a family. We're talking about following God; or following money.
In case you're unaware, this is something that Jesus is fairly clear on. "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." Matthew 6:24 NLT. Jesus specifically tells us - at a few points, actually - not to be chasing after things of this world. Not to be chasing after money. Not to be worrying about things like food, clothing, having a roof over your head. As Jesus continues on later in this passage, "These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT)

But what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God? Well, I might be a bit off here, but I think it comes from following where the Spirit leads. As those who have done old Biblical Studies classes might (groaningly) recall, his kingdom is where God's rule and reign is. Where he is the king. So being part of his kingdom, means being under his rule. Means following what he says, where he calls me to go, what he calls me to do.

Now, does this mean that everyone should go and quit their jobs, go out into the wilderness to seek God, and expect a pile of money to fall into their laps? That's not how it works.
Often, God works through the (seemingly) ordinary things around us. The people we interact with. The opportunities that arise. The job that you have at the moment - that could very well be the way that he's providing for you. Or it could be what he's calling you away from. I don't know. Only you and God can, really.

I'm not trying to say I've got it all figured out. I'm 26. I'm human. I don't. But I think in our modern, Western, money-centred world, we can find ourselves serving money quite easily if we're not careful. For me, that's not something I ever want to be doing. Sure, things can be nice sometimes. But people are nicer. And God is better still.

Still working out what God is doing in this time. But I'm trusting in him. Hopefully, you are too.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Big Issues: Climate Change

Well, it's starting a bit late, but here we are!

For those that aren't in the know, I'm starting a new blog series - because why not? - looking at some of the big issues in the world today. I asked Facebook what they thought those were, and these are the ones they came up with. This series won't be so much trying to solve these issues; rather, it's looking more at trying to understand why these are such big issues for here and now.

Strangely enough, one of the ones that popped up was climate change. Global warming. All this fun stuff. And so that's what we'll be tackling first.

Now. I don't really want this post to be about proving that climate change and global warming are real things. Because if you can't figure that out by now, I don't know what's going to prove it to you. Natural disasters are going crazy, temperatures are very much misbehaving, and fossil fuel companies have been trying to cover it up for decades. But let's move on from that for now.

It's not too much to say that this may well be the biggest issue of our time. Within our lifetimes, we're likely going to see things around the world getting worse and worse, even if we start making some big changes right now (which probably won't happen). How bad are we talking? Well, given enough time (and what that amount of time is is still pretty up in the air at this point), it would be looking pretty similar to an extinction-level event. We're talking about whether or not the human race will even exist, in a few generations' time. Or at least, exist in the way we know it now. That's the seriousness we're looking at this with.

And perhaps there are some (though I hope not many) more conservative Christians that welcome this idea, and see it as the promised end times - the quicker we all die, the quicker Jesus comes back! Right?
Ahem. Rest assured, that is not where I stand on the issue of climate change. This an issue of tremendous weight that we have needed to combat with serious action for decades, and have done very little about. As such, we are starting to feel the repercussions.
It's starting to get to the level where I think there are probably people that are deciding not to have kids, because they see things only getting worse, and they don't want to raise children to face that future. (Not to mention the other things we'll be talking about over the rest of the series.) And I can understand that. Things are getting pretty crazy, and a lot of the time, they don't seem to be getting any better. Maybe we'll be able to fix it, maybe we won't - but right now, we don't really know. And that's a tough spot to be in.

But hey, let's not end on too negative a note. Let's find some things that we can do. These aren't solutions - but if enough people start doing them, maybe it will help a bit.
1. Eat less meat. This is actually a thing. Meat production is super-bad for the environment. If everyone ate less meat - we'd be doing a lot better. I'm not saying everyone should turn vegetarian (though it's much easier to do these days), but less meat is good. Just make sure you're doing it properly and getting your protein and everything! Eggs are awesome.
2. Don't just recycle. Particularly with China not accepting recycling as much any more, it's tricky to know what's happening with our recycling now, and that process of things. In some cases, depending on where you are, it may just be sitting in storehouses waiting for things to happen to it, or even going to the tip. As such, it's much, much better if you can re-use things as much as possible. Buying less plastic is always good, but hopefully you know that by now. And when you do recycle - please, do it properly. The right things in the right bin. Recycling contamination isn't good.
3. Make a little noise. I'm not very good at this - but if we keep letting our politicians know that this is a big issue for us, that this is the big issue for us, then they might actually agree to do something about it. We only have so much sway as individuals, so we need to get the people that can actually do things to start doing things, you know.

I'm sure other people can add other good things to that list, but there are three to start off with.
This was a tricky issue to start with, because it's both so big, but also rather obvious in many ways - at least, in terms of why it's an issue for our time. I mean, we kinda made it one, because we done goofed and all that jazz. Hopefully we'll be able to get a bit more nuance with some of the other posts to come.

In the meantime, feel free to comment below, and let me know if you like these sorts of posts. Maybe I'll do more!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Two Weeks In.

I meant to start off the blog series yesterday, but didn't quite get there. I don't think I'll be getting there today, either. Needed to write something else first.

I'm finding myself in a very annoying loop when it comes to work. Get job -> enjoy it for a bit -> job becomes stale -> move on (usually to a different job). And depending on the job, the length at each point in the cycle has changed. But the longest I've had a job has been about two years or so. Which, to me, is crazy, because most of them have been less than a year. I've had about fifteen or so different jobs, not including volunteer positions. But to other people, who have been in jobs for five, ten, twenty years, this idea of going between so many jobs is crazy.

I've also never had a full-time job, and technically only just transitioned to a part-time one. Though I've had the equivalent of full-time (and more) hours before, I've only ever had casual work. Which generally works well for me - I like the flexibility, and never having had the full-time benefits, I don't really miss them! But I also don't get paid leave like many do.

One of the reasons that I find more hours (or the prospect of full-time work) difficult is because it allows me much less time to be creative. To do music, or acting, or writing, or poetry, or whatever else takes my fancy. Like designing board games! But then, when I do have the time - like now - I find that, generally speaking, I find it very hard to motivate myself to do these things anyway. Which seems rather counter-intuitive.

Apparently, I'm not particularly good at motivating myself. Which isn't ideal, to say the least. It's gotten worse over the last months, and I'm wondering if it's also a depression thing. I don't really know. I don't know heaps on that front.
But there are many days where I'm struggling to get anything useful done. Where things are getting put off to the next day. And the next day. I'm not getting back to people like I should. I'm forgetting things that are important. Mess is piling up. And so, I'm finding, are negative thoughts.

Though I don't think much of work - it's rather a favourite topic of mine, if you've been reading my blog at all previously - many people in this world do. And so not having a regular job (okay, I do have a regular job, but one day a week isn't much) can make you feel - less, somehow. Couple that with probable difficulty with paying the bills in the near future, and attempting to figure out what on earth you're going to be doing to sort that out - it can get you a bit down, and stressed, at times. Particularly when you're heading towards getting married early next year, which is a rather expensive thing. And then having a shared financial burden of two people, rather than just yourself.

It adds up to quite a bit, in terms of expectation. And when you feel like you can't meet that - or even worse, like you never could - that hurts. It's very difficult. And that's what I'm working through. (I should note, by the way, that these are not expectations imposed upon me by other people, or my fiancée. It's just me.)
At the moment, it's making me feel things like worthless, useless, those sorts of fun words. And somewhere, I know that they're not true. But that part of me isn't doing very well at being able to fight back at the moment. And so, I start to believe them.

Which, needless to say, isn't good. In fact, it's very not good. It's very very not good, and I need to figure out how to stop this downward spiral. So far, I've tried stopping most of work, because I was finding that that was making things harder. I think that's helped a bit, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped. Medication doesn't seem to be doing as much as I'd like yet either. Don't know if it's because I'm not taking the right type, or because I'm not taking enough. Guess we'll see when I see the doctor next. That's still a couple of weeks away. I was doing running at one point, but I need to actually have the motivation to do it. I haven't for a while. I've been playing music a bit more regularly, and that's been good. So I'll keep doing that.

I feel like I've got a lot to work through, but the busyness and money-centredness of this world doesn't allow much leeway for that.

I don't really know where I'm going. I don't think I have for a long time. I have too many ideas that are very vague and wispy, and I jump at near anything that moves.

I don't know. I just don't know. Hoping that God does.

Monday, 15 April 2019

The Big Issues.

I want to be writing a bit more, so I thought I'd do a series on here! Haven't done one of those in a while. And the series I thought I'd do is looking at the big issues of today. I'm talking global-level big here, pandemic level big, affecting humanity as a whole big.

After asking my reliable Facebook folks for some examples, and generalising the more specific ones, here's what we have insofar:
- Climate change
- Discrimination (based on race/gender/sexual identity/etc)
- Capitalism
- Nationalism/Right-wing extremism
- Overpopulation
- Food/starvation
- Religion
- Mental health

Hopefully people feel like their ideas are represented under one or more of those. If you think there's another one to add, let me know! A couple of these are a bit intertwined, so I may end up doing one post for two sometimes - it will depend a bit on length - and I may have a couple of my own that I come up with. Masculinity/femininity is one big one I'd add.

So keep an eye out for those coming soon! The idea isn't to be solving issues, but to be trying to understand why these are such big issues for today, why they've become such a problem. Hopefully it can be a good starting point for discussion and the like.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Myths About Hell.

Quite a while back, one of the things I used to do from time to time was dispel some common misconceptions that people had about Christianity. Today, after reading quite an interesting article on hell - I'll leave you to make up your own mind about it, because it does make some big claims - I thought I'd dispel some myths that people have about hell.

Myth 1: the devil rules over hell.
You see this idea a lot in popular culture - particularly depictions that show demons in hell torturing people in there, enjoying themselves, all of that sort of thing. Sorry, but this doesn't line up with what you see in the Bible at all.
Hell is clearly a place of punishment as much - if not more - for Satan and his demons than it is for people. It's where he was 'cast down' to out of heaven when he rebelled against God. He's trapped there, and he can't get out - but he still has a limited influence over this world, during this age we live in (however long that lasts for).

Myth 2: the devil created hell.
Closely related to the previous myth, this one is also no good. God created everything - the heavens, and the earth, and also a place that the devil was trapped in. That's what we call hell. The devil also can't really 'create' things. He doesn't have that power. He can only twist what God has already created.

Myth 3: hell is a place of complete separation from God.
This has become a popular idea more recently, particularly with the pushback against the more traditional 'fire and brimstone' view of hell - the idea that instead, hell is just a complete and total separation from God. However, Paul very clearly writes:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39, New Living Translation
Nothing, in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from God's love. (You may argue that the presence of God and God's love are two different things, but seeing as God is love, I think that's a tricky argument.) Satan and hell are both part of creation. Therefore, they cannot separate us from God. God is present, in some form, in hell. Which means that his love also will be.
This seems impossible to many of us in our ideas that we have about hell, as a place of eternal torment - but God has a habit of never giving up or letting go of his people. I don't think we've seen the last chapter of this story yet.

Myth 4: hell is where you go if you've done bad things.
A slight oversimplification, but you get the gist. Many people seem to think that God works by the Ancient Egyptian model - where your heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, a symbol of truth and justice, to see if it was good enough. But that's not how God works.
You see, sin isn't an accumulative thing. It's not a, "how bad was your sin?" kinda thing. It's a binary thing. One or zero. Either you have sinned, or you haven't sinned. And, being human - unless you're Jesus - you have sinned. Which means there's a problem.
Thankfully, God works on the grace model. What does that mean? Basically, it means he gives us a substitute. Someone that didn't sin, who can stand in our place. (If you missed the memo, that's Jesus, by the way.) And because of Jesus, even if we've sinned - no matter how much we've done, no matter what it is we've done - God accepts us into his family, to be with him. (And if you're thinking that you've done too much bad for God to love you - keep in mind that there are examples in the Bible of murderers, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and even pretty much a full-on terrorist [Paul was pretty crazy] following him.)

On a related note, Satan is never described in the Bible as being red, or having a pitchfork or horns (in fact, there's very little or no description of him at all). We get bits of that from other mythologies that artists have used to influence their work.

I'll note that I haven't been definitive on what hell is, and that's partly on purpose. I like to leave room for discussion and debate, and for people to explore for themselves. But it's also because it's still something I'm working out as well! But I hope you've found these points interesting, and I might try doing a few more of these on other subjects in future. Let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to cover.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Down And Out.

It's been a while, folks. Apologies. I haven't done much of an update in a while.

That's for a few reasons, but mostly - I haven't been doing well. Not well at all, on a number of levels, but particularly emotionally and mentally.

It's recently come up that I may have depression. I haven't received an official diagnosis or anything, but each day that goes by seems to reinforce that possibility. The doctor has me on medication for it. Hopefully I'll see some positive results from that soon.

But it's been meaning that, even though I have some awesome things happening - engagement and directing The Crucible bring chief among them - I'm feeling quite detached and uncaring much of the time, and struggling to motivate myself to do anything much. It's not great. I'd say I'm probably at the lowest I've been - or at least, for the longest. Thankfully, I have some good to counterbalance it, and awesome people around to lean on.

At the same time, God has been repeatedly challenging me and pushing me. Constantly, he is asking me to take a step out in faith and trust him, to actually use some of these creative talents that I've been given. To come back to some of these projects and ideas that he's entrusted me with. To be doing work for him, and his people.

And that's challenging, particularly from a financial perspective. We're planning to get married in January. That's not exactly cheap. On that note, neither is rent. Or life. I don't earn much as it is. It's going to be a lot less if I'm focusing on things like music, writing, speaking, etc. It's very difficult to earn much doing those. You can, but it usually takes a long time to get there. I don't really have that time or luxury.

But it's what I'll be doing anyway. For both of the reasons above, I'm finishing up with my job at Hope. It's not a decision made lightly, or on the spur of the moment - this has been something that I've been going back and forth on and thinking about for a good month or two now - but it is happening. Next week, actually.

Which is both extremely scary, and rather exhilarating.

I'm hoping that I can use this season to take care of myself a bit better, so I can actually be a better me. So I can use these gifts I have, and maybe even get paid for it. Or maybe I'll find bits of other jobs. We'll see. I don't know yet.

But I know that God does. And this an adventure we're on together. I may be blind - but I'm being led by the best guide there is.

I'm looking forward to sharing the next chapter of this story with you. I'm sure you'll hear more from me before too long.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Inclusive and Exclusive People

If you haven't heard about the horrible events over in Christchurch the other's pretty grim. Basically, a guy from Australia (yes, our own country) went over to a mosque with guns, and shot pretty much everyone he could see. There are near fifty confirmed dead, and more wounded. He livestreamed the event, and uploaded the video to social media.

Let me be clear. This is an act of terrorism. The sad fact is, we are already getting people who are saying different. Who are demonstrating their Islamophobia, and saying that Muslim immigration should be restricted. I'm looking at you, Fraser Anning. To those outside of Australia - he's one of our Members of Parliament. Yeah.

This wouldn't be happening if they didn't think there was an audience for it. If they didn't think that there was a strong group of supporters behind that opinion. And that's the scary thing. Not that we have a rogue MP who has terrible views; we're used to that sort of thing by now. Heck, these days we're used to that in our presidents and prime ministers.....but that's the problem. These people wouldn't be in power if there wasn't the numbers there to support them and their ideas.

Which means, chances are, you know people that think this way. There are probably people that are reading this blog post who think this way. (Assuming they haven't stopped reading by now, that is.) Exclusive people. And it doesn't really matter who it is that they exclude. Whether it's by religion, race, gender, sexuality, mental or physical health - people that want nothing to do with a certain group or groups of people, and think that they shouldn't be a part of their country. Or sometimes, their world.

This isn't okay. If it isn't obvious - in today's world, we are becoming increasingly connected by technology. We are more and more in each other's backyards (metaphorically speaking), but also more and more seeing movement around the world from country to country (literally speaking). Australia has (apparently) prided itself on being a multicultural country; but more and more, this won't be just an Australian thing. Communities won't be able to seclude themselves, and peoples will be mixed that haven't mixed before. Tensions will be raised, and cultures will mix and mash in strange and different and amazing ways.

In all of this, we need people of inclusivity, not exclusivity. People that are willing to include others, regardless of their background or who they are. Because, at the most basic, we are all human. We are all different, but we are all the same. We need to come together, not be split apart along lines of country, or race, or religion, or gender, or whatever else. Particularly when our world is groaning and falling apart because of what we've been doing to it over the last centuries.

We need inclusive people. And I very much hope that you are - or that you can be - one of those.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Pell Tolls....

For those who haven't heard, the verdict on Cardinal Pell has just come out. Shocker - he's been found guilty.

If you've been living under a rock, Cardinal George Pell (the highest ranking member of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia) was (a while ago now) accused of sexually assaulting underage boys. Strangely enough, he denied this claim. After some time, he has now been found guilty, and that verdict has been released.

It's the latest in a long line of higher-ranking religious men, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, who have been accused - and found guilty - of sexually assaulting minors. If you don't know much about it, go watch Spotlight on Netflix when you've got a couple of hours. It does a great job of telling the story.

But I think people are starting to ask the question - why is this such a widespread issue? How has this happened? And so that's something I thought I'd take a look at.

Let's say that you are a man in the Roman Catholic Church. You're quite devoted to your church, and so you decide to spend some time and become one of the clergy. You can't marry, and you spend a number of years in seminary, and some time as a deacon, before becoming a priest. It's a lot of hard work to get there, and there's a lot of pressure.
When you do become a priest, you promise to obey what the bishop says, stay celibate (don't have sex), and live a Godly life. That last one in particular can be a lot to live up to. But now, as a priest, you have certain privileges. You can minister to those under your care, and you learn about things that you didn't know before.

You're given power that you didn't have before. You have a certain level of access - both to areas, and to people, that you didn't have before. And there is a level of secrecy, or at least, lack of transparency, around many things that happen. Things are kept in confidence - after all, this is the point of the confessional. All that you would have to add to this volatile mix is an opportunity.

I should note. I do not intend this to mean that people join the priesthood explicitly to do these things. That would be highly (and, I'm fairly certain demonstrably) incorrect to suggest. What I do believe is the case, however, is that some people, when introduced to this environment - where they are given power, access, secrecy, and opportunity, and are under pressure - can use that in a bad way. Many won't, and haven't. When I'm saying 'many' and 'some', by the way; I'm meaning in comparison to the total number of priests. Not just as, this is a lot of people. Because it is, as you probably know, a large number of priests that have offended in this way. But in terms of percentage - it's about 4%. (At least, according to this study that I'm looking at.)

Unfortunately, churches - and not just Roman Catholic ones - can create situations which make it easier and less visible for leaders to hurt others in this way. Thankfully, we are now realising this, and starting to put measures in place to ensure that this doesn't happen again, now or in the future.

But I think this is also something that you can apply in different ways, to different organisations, and with different crimes. When you have this mix of power, access, secrecy, pressure, and opportunity - sometimes, even people that we'd think of as quite good, can turn down paths that are really quite terrible. It's why, more and more, people are emphasising the importance of transparency within organisations. Of accountability, and even rest.

There's a lot of work to be done. But perhaps, slowly, we might start to see some changes happening. Until then - keep pushing.