State of the Union

‘Les Murray Is Australia’

The other day I was in Sydney, thinking about this Alan Jacobs post about the recently deceased Australian poet Les Murray, and this 2015 essay by Jacobs about Les Murray. In it, Jacobs wrote:

The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has argued that France produces, from time to time, a peculiar kind of figure whom he calls the “consecrated heretic.” Voltaire is one example; Rousseau another; Sartre a third. The consecrated heretic is an artist or intellectual who plants his feet firmly in the riverbed and faces the social current upstream, refusing to be carried along by it. He mocks conventional wisdom; he scandalizes ordinary people by what he believes, what he says, how he acts. Of course, many people do this, but only a tiny handful are celebrated for it, are seen as indispensable threads in the social fabric. The passionate earnestness of these few is acknowledged; they are clearly dedicated in their own perverse way to the common good. Eventually the nation’s major institutions seek to bestow high honors on such heretics, who of course turn aside disdainfully, which makes them treasured all the more. Les Murray is the chief consecrated heretic of Australia.

One thing that made Les Murray a heretic in Australia is that he was a convert to Catholicism, a real believer who dedicated most of his books “To the glory of God.”

Alan put up this old Australian tourist ad featuring Les Murray. It’s really something; it consists of lines from one of his most well-known poems, “The Dream Of Wearing Shorts Forever”:

So, I went to a big bookstore in Sydney looking for a volume of Les Murray poems so I could see what the big deal was. They had nothing — I’m guessing because Murray died last month, and they sold out.

This morning having coffee with some new friends in Melbourne, I mentioned how much I had hoped to buy a book of Les Murray poems while here. One of them — I believe it was one of them, but I’ve talked about Murray with several people these past days — said to me, “Les Murray is Australia.” Tonight, one of those friends delivered to me a hardback copy of the Collected Poems of Les Murray, the cover of which is above. I was so grateful, and so touched. It’s hard for me to overstate how much I like Australians, who are exactly what you expect: bold, big-hearted, and kind.

Tonight in the Uber returning from dinner, I was talking with my Australian friend Paul about the big book, which I held in my lap like a treasure chest. He said that his favorite Les Murray poem is called “The Last Hellos.” He explained that Murray had a complicated and painful relationship with his father. Here is the poem. It is a thing of rough beauty.


Don’t die, Dad —
but they die.
This last year he was wandery:
took off a new chainsaw blade
and cobbled a spare from bits.
Perhaps if I lay down
my head’ll come better again.
His left shoulder kept rising
higher in his cardigan.
He could see death in a face.
Family used to call him in
to look at sick ones and say.
At his own time, he was told.
The knob found in his head
was duck-egg size. Never hurt.
Two to six months, Cecil.
I’ll be right, he boomed
to his poor sister on the phone
I’ll do that when I finish dyin.

Don’t die, Cecil.
But they do.
Going for last drives
in the bush, odd massive
board-slotted stumps bony white
in whipstick second growth.
I could chop all day.
I could always cash
a cheque, in Sydney or anywhere.

Any of the shops.
Eating, still at the head
of the table, he now missed
food on his knife side.
Sorry, Dad, but like
have you forgiven your enemies?
Your father and all of them?

All his lifetime of hurt.
I must have (grin). I don’t
think about that now.


People can’t say goodbye
any more. They say last hellos.
Going fast, over Christmas,
he’d still stumble out
of his room, where his photos
hang over the other furniture,
and play host to his mourners.
The courage of his bluster
firm big voice of his confusion.
Two last days in the hospital:
his long forearms were still
red mahogany. His hands
gripped steel frame. I’m dyin.
On the second day:
You’re bustin to talk but
I’m too busy dyin.


Grief ended when he died,
the widower like soldiers who
won’t live life their mates missed.
Good boy Cecil! No more Bluey dog.
No more cowtime. No more stories.
We’re still using your imagination,
it was stronger than all ours.
Your grave’s got littler
somehow, in the three months.
More pointy as the clay’s shrivelled,
like a stuck zip in a coat.
Your cricket boots are in
the State museum! Odd letters
still come. Two more’s died since you:
Annie, and Stewart. Old Stewart.
On your day there was a good crowd,
family, and people from away.
But of course a lot had gone
to their own funerals first.
Snobs mind us off religion
nowadays, if they can.
Fuck thém. I wish you God.

UPDATE: Stephen McInerney, a Murray scholar, wrote a remembrance.


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View From Your Table

Melbourne, Australia

Sushi and sashimi and Kirin Ichiban by the Yarra River.

By the way, this is as close as I got to the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (see in the distance). I was too afraid that the Melbourne crickets would be as poisonous and as aggressive as the Sydney funnel web spiders, so naturally I kept away. I hope I did the right thing. Eh?

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American Abortion

As you know, I’ve been in Australia for the past week, and have not been on the Internet much. The Alabama abortion law came to pass while I was away, and I haven’t been able to follow the discussion much, owing to my schedule here. This comment from a reader on another thread struck me, though:

I’ve been genuinely surprised by [the Left’s] reaction on the issue of legal elective abortion. It’s qualitatively different. Any threat to “we can destroy this child/organism/thing at any stage of development until birth” (and “heartbeat” laws are a very big threat) and the reaction is extraordinary. The entertainment industry takes a break from, well, entertaining or being funny and launches into angry sermonizing. So this is their red line in the cultural landscape, the hill on which they will burn with epithymia. I’ve been stunned by what some public figures are saying on social media. Statements that are way past “here’s a reasonable and rational point of view with which someone might disagree”. I’m seeing some seriously unhinged, out of touch with reality statements. The writer of the film Juno said of pro-life fans “I hate all of you”.

What is going on in the psyche of people such that they go far beyond “I disagree strongly with you” to “you are the enemy whom I hate and you need to be crushed”?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sizable portion of the social-cultural left lose its collective mind like this. I honestly didn’t understand until now that legal elective abortion (up to and sometimes including killing the child immediately after birth) is the center of their moral and ideological universe.

If I can figure out how and why I will understand what drives the social-cultural left.

I would differ slightly on that. I think sexual autonomy is at the center of their moral universe; maintaining legal abortion is part of that.

What are you pro-life readers seeing and hearing? Fill in this out-of-touch American. I’ll be heading back home on Wednesday.

By the way,  I just read Ramesh Ponnuru’s column on the new pro-life legislation. Nobody can doubt Ponnuru’s pro-life bona fides, but I think he makes a strong point about the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that the pro-life movement has miscalculated by rejecting incrementalism at this stage. Not sure that he’s right — again, I’ve been out of the country, and not following the debate, but it sounds spot on. Excerpt:

But incrementalism doesn’t have to be a universally correct strategy, for all political movements at all times, to be the right one for the pro-life movement today. Among the circumstances we confront are these: We have a radically unjust legal regime on abortion which can in principle be made less unjust by degrees; many millions of Americans are ambivalent — for example, favoring legal abortion in the case of rape while opposing it in the second and third trimesters; those on the other side of the debate are, partly as a result, demonstrably more eager to discuss abortions after rape than abortions late in pregnancy; many politicians allied to the pro-life movement are not especially adept at navigating the politics of the issue; and while our sense of where the Supreme Court justices are is imprecise, we have reason to think that one or more of them have misgivings both about Roe and about overruling it. These circumstances all argue in favor of incrementalism.

Finally, many critics suggested, often using forceful rhetoric, that an incrementalist strategy does not fit the moral urgency of the cause. The evil of abortion must be combated insistently, they say — and I agree. But our moral obligation is to combat it as effectively and intelligently as we know how. It is not to pass a law that gets struck down in court rapidly while alienating Americans in the middle of the debate.

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Sadism, Ours And Theirs

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, from the tweet of actor Jim Carrey

Not much shocks the conscience these days. This did:

Carrey, the comic actor, delights in the prospect of murdering a Republican politician, and makes funny out of the details of abortion (e.g., vacuuming an unborn child’s skull to pieces). You can imagine what would have happened had a conservative actor (James Woods, say) posted a cartoon of a dead Iraqi child, shot by an American soldier, with the caption, “I think if you’re going to kill a jihadi, it should be done sometime before they get old enough to carry a gun.” That would be the end of that actor. Carrey gets away with it. They always do.

But the theoretical sadistic actor of my story would no doubt be a hero for some on the Right. I say that because President Trump is reportedly considering pardoning an accused war criminal who did exactly what I theorize above. Look:

Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.

Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7’s Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action.

Tired of being brushed off, seven members of the platoon called a private meeting with their troop commander in March 2018 at Naval Base Coronado near San Diego. According to a confidential Navy criminal investigation report obtained by The New York Times, they gave him the bloody details and asked for a formal investigation.

But instead of launching an investigation that day, the troop commander and his senior enlisted aide — both longtime comrades of the accused platoon leader, Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — warned the seven platoon members that speaking out could cost them and others their careers, according to the report.

The clear message, one of the seven told investigators, was “Stop talking about it.”

The platoon members eventually forced the referral of their concerns to authorities outside the SEALs, and Chief Gallagher now faces a court-martial, with his trial set to begin May 28.

But the account of the March 2018 meeting and myriad other details in the 439-page report paint a disturbing picture of a subculture within the SEALs that prized aggression, even when it crossed the line, and that protected wrongdoers.

Please read the whole thing to learn the details of what Gallagher is charged with having done. Gallagher is unquestionably a brave man … but he is also pretty obviously a sadist:

Two SEAL snipers told investigators that one day, from his sniper nest, Chief Gallagher shot a girl in a flower-print hijab who was walking with other girls on the riverbank. One of those snipers said he watched through his scope as she dropped, clutching her stomach, and the other girls dragged her away.

Another day, two other snipers said, the chief shot an unarmed man in a white robe with a wispy white beard. They said the man fell, a red blotch spreading on his back.

Notice it was other SEALs who turned him in.

Gallagher deserves a fair trial. But there are some conservatives who would not care one bit if he were found guilty — they would not want to see him punished.

TAC’s Mark Perry has a good, detailed piece on the case. Excerpts:

The case against Gallagher, a 19-year Navy veteran (14 of them as a SEAL) and father of three, is straightforward and summarized in a three-page charge sheet that details the case against him. While deployed with his unit in Mosul on May 3, a wounded enemy fighter was brought in for treatment. When he was told that the teenager was with ISIS, Gallagher turned to his platoon. “Nobody touch him,” he allegedly instructed. “He’s mine.” At that point, Gallagher took out his knife, stooped over the injured fighter, cut into his pants in an apparent attempt to treat him—then stabbed him in his lower neck and chest, leaving his fellow platoon members stunned. Gallagher then (allegedly) posed for pictures while holding up the corpse’s head and conducted a macabre reenlistment ceremony over him.

Later, according to prosecutors, Gallagher texted a photo of himself next to the corpse to a fellow SEAL with the message: “I got him with my hunting knife.”

Gallagher’s platoon members have told Navy investigators that Gallagher’s actions both before and after the May 3 incident had convinced them that their chief had “gone off the rails,” a senior Navy officer involved in the case said. Several told Navy investigators that Gallagher shot Iraqi civilians with his sniper rifle, bragged about his “kills” (while pledging that he would beat super-sniper Chris Kyle’s “body count”), and, when told that he would be reported for what he’d done, intimidated his accusers and set members of his platoon against them.

The Navy’s case is sobering. During a two-day preliminary hearing held last November, military prosecutors and NCIS investigators presented evidence against Gallagher that included a helmet-cam video of the wounded ISIS fighter, footage of Gallagher’s “reenlistment ceremony,” photographs of Gallagher holding the knife over the corpse, pictures of SEALs posing with the body, and 1,000 pages of documents, interviews, and backup evidence. (The case has been the subject of a series of detailed investigative pieces written by Carl Prine that have appeared in the Navy Times.)

We close our eyes to inhumanity for tribalist reasons. Think of all the pro-abortion liberals who said nothing about Kermit Gosnell, or who rationalized (and do rationalize) the gruesome work of Planned Parenthood. Human life becomes an abstraction. Real war, the kind that gets people (unborn children, innocent Iraqi old men and children) killed, becomes nothing but an extension of the culture war. Ha ha! Don’t you wish someone had sucked the skull of Alabama’s governor dry before she was born? 


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Progressive Colonialism, Southern Discomfort

‘If I can’t abort my baby, I’m going to pack up and go back to Brooklyn’ (Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock)

I’m so sorry. Really, just very sorry. Here entitled Yankees like the NYT’s Ginia Bellafante thought the American South existed to give Millennial Brooklynites a place to reproduce Park Slope, but more affordably, and now we’ve gone and ruined it for them with our deplorable social and religious views. Bellafante writes about how pro-life legislators are screwing things up for these expats:

“The New South’’ was a term conceived in the aftermath of the Civil War to suggest a set of aspirations of some southern elites who hoped to rebuild a backward and devastated place into a world better aligned with Northern urban values.

Over the many decades, it has acquired various layers of nuance, but today it tends to call to mind a string of cities from Charlotte, N.C., to Austin, Tex., that have essentially been Brooklynized by way of a progressive social culture and a tweaked fidelity to some of the South’s more marketable traditions.


How will these new abortion laws affect the redistribution of talent to places whose economies prosper from that talent? Under the current conditions, I wondered if women like Tess and her friends, many of whom moved from New York or Los Angeles, would have chosen to relocate to the Deep South. I asked some of them, and they told me that they were not sure.

One, Allison Gourlay, arrived in New Orleans a few years ago from a studio in Greenwich Village she could barely afford. At first she had a hard time finding work and questioned her decision.

“I was talking to a friend one day when I wasn’t sure and she said, ‘Stay, this place is about to blow up. It’s on the cusp of something big, can’t you feel it?’ This is cheesy, but I got goose bumps. New Orleans is really a place to establish work-life balance but I’m getting ready to start a family and it scares me,” she said.

“When you meet all these young people moving here who are so passionate and intelligent and changing the rules and making the city what it is, it is so inspiring. But it really worries me that it could no longer be that place.”

She’s getting ready to start a family, but the possibility that the Louisiana legislature might make it harder for her to exterminate her unborn child makes her think about abandoning the city where things are otherwise pretty great for her?

Read the whole thing, if you can stomach it.

How many stories do you see in the New York Times about the city and state’s extremely progressive social legislation, and how it stands to hurt the city economically and culturally? Are there migrants — from the American South, or from more socially conservative overseas cultures — who are unsettled by the recent pro-abortion fanaticism of the New York legislature? Kathleen Parker comments:

The question of craziness, meanwhile, depends upon one’s definition of crazy. Is Alabama crazier than New York, where some protections for babies “born” alive during an abortion were recently eliminated, making it easier to end their life if desired by the abortion-seeker?

We know how much economically significant talent is driven away from NYC because of the cost of living — that’s one of the foundations of Bellafante’s piece. Well, how much economically meaningful talent is driven away from NYC (or declines to relocate there) because the city can impose ruinous fines on employers who refuse to use whatever pronoun an employee wants? Are there young newcomers to NYC who want to start families, but who are now thinking that it might not be a good idea to settle down in a city whose public school system appears to be run by flat-out racists who despise whites, in ways that are approved by progressives?

I concede that it’s interesting to talk to progressive Northerners who moved South, thinking that the Grand March of Progress would inevitably make the benighted (but cheap) metropolises of Dixie into non-deplorable locales — but who are learning that they, in fact, live in the South.

What chaps my butt about the piece is the assumption by the author (and those she writes about) that the South ought to assimilate to the dominant progressive culture. The message of this piece is, If you Christianist troglodytes don’t let us progressives have our abortions, we’re not going to move there and contribute to your economies. 

I have an idea! All y’all could pack up your progressive colonialism ethic and go the hell back home.

I have friends who are pro-choice Southern liberals. I believe they’re wrong about that, but this is their home, and I’ve got no problem with them speaking their minds, and advocating for the kinds of laws they would like to see. But you’d better believe I have a big problem with these people who come down to take what’s good out of the South, but the moment Southerners — who are in general more socially conservative — express through their democratically elected legislators opinions that run counter to the sensibilities of Williamsburg, these people are thinking of leaving? Go. Just, go. The South has been very nice to you, but it doesn’t need to be lectured on how if it knows what’s good for it, it will kill its unborn children like the enlightened of the Empire State.

I’ll never read it in the NYT, but I’d be curious to know if any of you readers left a progressive city or state to move to the South (or at least the Midwest) for cultural reasons — specifically, to seek a more socially conservative milieu in which to raise your kids.


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View From Your Table

Melbourne, Australia

A quick Korean dinner after we arrived in Melbourne. That’s a chive pancake, and the last pork and kimchi dumpling. Unfortunately the street view wasn’t much to look at from the angle. I tried to take a reverse selfie VFYT, with not much success — but the street was brighter. Look:

Lookahere Melbourne folks, I’m going to be in conversation with journalist Greg Sheridan on Monday night, and you are invited. I’m not sure if there are any seats left, but drop a note to Yvette Nehme and see if it’s possible. 

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Shock: Conservatives Win Australia

Australian PM Scott Morrison holds on to office in jaw-dropping victory (ABC News Australia screenshot)

All week I’ve been hearing from Australians — conservative voters — that the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was going to win today’s national election. Even tonight at my speech in Sydney, voters were downcast about the expected results. And then we all went home and turned on the TV, and learned that the conservative Coalition incumbents led by PM Scott Morrison had pulled off an upset. (N.B., the Liberal Party is the conservative party in Australia). Read this report from The Australian:

The Coalition’s bombshell triumph comes after repeated polls placed the ALP ahead of the Morrison Government, and the Prime Minister’s demise appeared assured.

Swings to the Coalition in Queensland turned the election on its head as early figures suggested the Government could hold on.

Labor scrutineers told older voters have punished the party for its higher-taxing agenda. States where the economy is not thriving – such as Queensland, WA and country areas – have backed the Liberals’ agenda focused on the economy and jobs.

“A bold agenda is now dead forever in Australia,” a Labor scrutineer says as it became clear the election was turning against [Labor leader Bill] Shorten.

As the votes came in confidence began to grown among Liberal supporters. At the official Liberal Party function in Sydney exuberant young Liberal supporters were heard chanting that the Liberals were “an election winning machine”.

“Labor used to be party for the workers, now it’s a party for people who don’t work,” one said.

Great line.

It will be interesting to see if the social conservative/religious vote will have been decisive, given the controversy this week over Israel Folau, the Aussie rugby player sacked by the league for posting to Instagram a Bible quote that offended gays. A few days back, Bill Shorten, the Labor standard bearer, attacked opponent Scott Morrison for not condemning Folau unambiguously. And on Friday, the rugby league formally ended Folau’s career, causing a lot of anger among Australians who believe he was robbed of his livelihood because of his Christian belief.

There could be no doubt that a Labor victory would have been bad for religious liberty in this country. Alex Deagon, a law professor, wrote in The Age this week:

Rugby Australia’s verdict on its punishment for Israel Folau, due on Friday,  will highlight broader religious freedom implications – and these may have an impact on the federal election this weekend. Folau’s case will likely end up in court, but this saga goes far beyond the career of an individual player and his attempt to assert his right to call for sinners to repent.

Most significantly, Labor has pledged to remove the religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act, which allow religious schools to directly “discriminate” against staff and students in the process of upholding a religious ethos.

Senior Labor figures have attempted to reassure religious schools that they will still be able to maintain their ethos through the indirect discrimination exemptions. The religious schools sector remains sceptical – for good reason.


Simply removing the direct discrimination exemptions fails to adequately protect the religious freedom of schools. First, schools will only be able to generally regulate student conduct if it is “reasonable in the circumstances”. However, this gives secular courts effective theological power to determine if a particular school policy based in religion is reasonable.

This is an unwise intrusion of the state in the church – and it is worth remembering that the idea of “separation of church and state” was originally designed to protect the church from the state.

Read the whole thing. 

I hope that in-depth election analysis reveals that the nasty anti-religious views of Labor and progressives in general played a measurable role in the left’s shocking defeat in Australia.

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View From Your Table

Sydney, Australia

Election returns with a room service burger and steamed vegetables dressed with — ta-dah! — chicken salt. What a shocking (but oh so satisfying) win for the conservative coalition tonight. Everybody thought Labor was going to win handily. But Queensland said HA! That’s former PM John Howard being interviewed above.

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A Ben Op Afternoon In Sydney

Self, Chong Shao, and Dan Shih

Just got back from a wonderful couple of hours spent with new friends who are readers of this blog, and the Benedict Option. They are Presbyterian Christians living here in Sydney. Without a doubt the best thing about this book and the places it has taken me is meeting people like Chong and Dan.

At the end of our conversation, we talked briefly about the West as a civilization, and why it matters. It’s about our shared faith, certainly, but also things like the sense of justice and mercy that emerged in the West. How marvelous that these men, these Christian men, and I stand together as believers in the Christian faith — a global faith, one that began in the Near East — but also as heirs to and believers in a particular civilization, that of the West.

I have to say too that even though we just met, they know me well. Look what they brought me as a souvenir of Australia. Never heard of this stuff, but I can tell you for sure that my family and I will be excited to have it and eat it:

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IVF & Alabama Abortion

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey — a woman, note well — signs state’s strong pro-life law (MSNBC Screenshot)

The state of Alabama passed its abortion law this week, while I was in Australia. I have had no time to study the issue at all, so I’m not going to offer an opinion on it until I get back home next week. But this bit of Andrew Sullivan’s column jumped out at me:

It’s astonishing to me, for example, that the Alabama law actually exempts fetuses used in IVF procedures. They don’t need to be protected, it appears. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant,” explained a state senator in the debate. This is an enormous gift to pro-choicers. It really does prove that for some, this is not about human life. It’s about controlling women’s bodies. If that is revealed in a post-Roe era, the momentum will be with legal abortion.

I don’t think this is quite right, but it’s mostly right. I don’t think the inconsistency of the Alabama law can be honestly chalked up to a desire to “control women’s bodies.” I think it’s because IVF is widely used by Christians, and a consistent, logical pro-life position would outlaw it. If life begins at conception, then all those embryonic lives created in the laboratory and later discarded are human beings. This is something many Christians do not want to face.

There is no moral difference between men and women creating and destroying embryonic human life in the laboratory, and men and women doing the same in women’s wombs. Except for the matter of class — IVF in the US usually costs between $12,000 and $15,000. 

I’m not in favor of making the perfect the enemy of the good enough. But allowing a de facto abortion procedure used by middle and upper middle class people while is pretty ugly.

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Israel Folau, Religious Liberty Martyr

Israel Folau (Guardian Sport screenshot)

Hello all. I’m in Brisbane tonight, and have been so busy all day that I haven’t had time to post or to approve comments. Big news here is that the country’s top rugby player, Israel Folau, has had his career destroyed by league officials because he posted to Instagram a Bible verse criticizing homosexuals. More:

An understandably gutted Israel Folau has issued a parting jab at Rugby Australia shortly after his official axing from the Wallabies.

The 30-year-old had his $4 million contract scrapped on Friday following the nuclear fallout to his anti-gay Instagram post.

“It has been a privilege and honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love,” he said.

“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.

“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression. The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.”


Outspoken radio host and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones went for the jugular on Friday, insisting Rugby Australia will “fall on its sword” in the fallout to the Folau case.

The 78-year-old tore into the organisation live on 2GB this afternoon, saying it wasn’t a surprise the decision to sack Folau was made.

“There’s no surprise here…you’re dealing with incompetent people … and incompetent people always behave incompetently,” he said.

“They’ve destroyed his employment and internationally destroyed his name for quoting a passage from the bible for God’s sake.

“He hasn’t slaughtered anyone, he hasn’t insulted anyone and he hasn’t even tried to push this stuff down anyone’s throat.”

The Aussie Christians I’ve been talking to today all maintain that Folau is a kind of martyr to the extreme illiberalism of the Australian left. Tomorrow are national elections. If Labor wins, as is likely, I’m told that the party is expected to pass a number of laws further restricting freedom of religion and speech — all in the service of building a progressive utopia.

If they will destroy the career of the No. 1 rugby player in the country over his religious beliefs, who is safe?

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The Tragedy Of Gender Insanity

This is not just tragic, it’s lethally stupid:

When the man arrived at the hospital with severe abdominal pains, a nurse didn’t consider it an emergency, noting that he was obese and had stopped taking blood pressure medicines. In reality, he was pregnant — a transgender man in labor that was about to end in a stillbirth.

The tragic case, described in Wednesday’s New England Journal of Medicine, points to larger issues about assigning labels or making assumptions in a society increasingly confronting gender variations in sports , entertainment and government . In medicine, there’s a similar danger of missing diseases such as sickle cell and cystic fibrosis that largely affect specific racial groups, the authors write.

“The point is not what’s happened to this particular individual but this is an example of what happens to transgender people interacting with the health care system,” said the lead author, Dr. Daphna Stroumsa of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“He was rightly classified as a man” in the medical records and appears masculine, Stroumsa said. “But that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.”

This person was not “rightly classified as a man.” This person is a woman. Madeleine Kearns speculates on future tragedies that could occur because the medical establishment is too afraid to say “no” to gender delusion, and to progressives who believe that changing language can change reality:

In medicine, there’s no saying where the abandonment of objective sex classifications might end. Let’s imagine, for instance, that this patient — a pregnant female identifying as a male — donated blood which is later given to a male. Research suggests that males who have blood transfusions from females who have been pregnant could be a higher risk of premature death.

Or let’s imagine a different case. Let’s say a male who identifies as female takes a pregnancy test, and it shows up as positive: That male isn’t pregnant, but he may very well have testicular cancer. What treatment would he receive from doctors if they were treating him as a female?

In Canada, doctors just lost a huge medical conscience ruling. They must conform to this culture of death (abortion, euthanasia) and radical disorder (transgenderism). Wesley Smith writes:

Not only that, when most doctors got into medicine, euthanasia was a felony! But who cares? Times change and doctors must change with them because patients are “vulnerable:”

[Quoting the ruling:] The vulnerable patients I have described above, seeking MAiD, abortion, contraception and other aspects of sexual health care, turn to their family physicians for advice, care and, if necessary, medical treatment or intervention. Given the importance of family physicians as “gatekeepers” and “patient navigators” in the health care system, there is compelling evidence that patients will suffer harm in the absence of an effective referral.

Baloney. The real issue here is the message dissenting doctors send when they refuse to participate in a controversial intervention because it is wrong, which the court ruled is “stigmatizing” to patients.

The point of opposing medical conscience is to drive pro-life and Hippocratic Oath-believing doctors out of medicine. The Court goes there, telling doctors who don’t want to euthanize, abort, facilitate sex change, etc., they can always get into hair restoration:

[In] the following areas of medicine…physicians are unlikely to encounter requests for referrals for MAiD or reproductive health concerns, and which may not require specialty retraining or certification: sleep medicine, hair restoration, sport and exercise medicine, hernia repair, skin disorders for general practitioners, obesity medicine, aviation examinations, travel medicine, and practice as a medical officer of health.

So, an experienced and skilled oncologist who doesn’t want to kill can implant hair plugs instead of curing cancer. Brilliant.

And if they won’t do that, get the hell out of medicine.

The appellants have no common law, proprietary or constitutional right to practice medicine. As members of a regulated  and publicly-funded profession, they are subject to requirements that focus on the public interest, rather than their interests. In fact, the fiduciary nature of the physician-patient relationship requires physicians to act at all times in their patients’ best interests, and to avoid conflicts between their own interests and their patients’ interests.

Forcing doctors to be complicit in the taking of human life or face potential civil/professional consequences is despotism.

I’m telling you, readers, its Benedict Option time. This stuff is coming, and coming hard. From the book:

Along those lines, it will be very difficult to have open dialogue in many workplaces without putting oneself in danger. One Christian professor on a secular university’s science faculty declined to answer a question I had about the biology of homosexuality, out of fear that anything he said, no matter how innocuous and fact-based, could get him brought up on charges within his university, as well as attacked by social media mobs. Everyone working for a major corporation will be frog-marched through “diversity and inclusion” training and will face pressure not simply to tolerate LGBT co-workers but to affirm their sexuality and gender identity.

Plus, companies that don’t abide by state and federal antidiscrimination statutes covering LGBTs will be not be able to receive government contracts. In fact, according to one religious liberty litigator who has had to defend clients against an exasperating array of antidiscrimination lawsuits, the only thing standing between an employer or employee and a court action is the imagination of LGBT plaintiffs and their lawyers.

“We are all vulnerable to such targeting,” he said.

Says a religious liberty lawyer, “There is no looming resolution to these conflicts; no plateau that we’re about to reach. Only intensification. It’s a train that won’t stop so long as there is momentum and track.”

David Gushee, a well-known Evangelical ethicist who holds an aggressively progressive stance on gay issues, published a column in 2016 noting that the middle ground is fast disappearing on the question of whether discrimination against gays and lesbians for religious reasons should be tolerated.

“Neutrality is not an option,” he wrote. “Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.”

Public school teachers, college professors, doctors, and lawyers will all face tremendous pressure to capitulate to this ideology as a condition of employment. So will psychologists, social workers, and all in the helping professions; and of course, florists, photographers, backers, and all businesses that are subject to public accommodation laws.

Christian students and their parents must take this into careful consideration when deciding on a field of study in college and professional school. A nationally prominent physician who is also a devout Christian tells me he discourages his children from following in his footsteps. Doctors now and in the near future will be dealing with issues related to sex, sexuality, and gender identity but also to abortion and euthanasia. “Patient autonomy” and nondiscrimination are the principles that trump all conscience considerations, and physicians are expected to fall in line.

“If they make compliance a matter of licensure, there will be nowhere to hide,” said this physician. “And then what do you do if you’re three hundred thousand dollars in debt from medical school, and have a family with three kids and a sick parent? Tough call, because there aren’t too many parishes or church communities who would jump in and help.”

I spoke to this physician a couple of months ago. The noose is tightening, he says. Be vigilant.

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Ben OP Tonight In Brisbane

I would love to see you! Send an RSVP to Yvette.

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View From Your Table

Sydney, Australia

I resolved to try Vegemite this morning. Peeled the label back, took a sniff, and lost the will to live. It smells like geriatric broccoli ass.

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Facebook Polices Secular Blasphemy

From the Iona Institute in Dublin

Another day, another case of social media bigs enforcing exclusive, progressive Silicon Valley values on everybody else: From Dublin’s Iona Institute, which has violated secular liberalism’s blasphemy code with four little words:

Facebook has censored our new ‘still one of us’ ad campaign which we launched last week. It has been placed behind a notice of warning and we are no longer allowed us to promote it. The campaign is currently running on a number of billboards in various parts of the country and we had extended the campaign to Facebook where we were paying a small amount (€150 in total) to bring it to a wider audience.

The company said the image of an unborn child that appears in the ad comes under the heading of ‘graphic’ or ‘violent’ imagery. Below is what Facebook users now see where the ad once appeared. (Note, we can still post the image on our Facebook page but cannot pay to bring it to a wider audience).

The Iona Institute is trying to remind the Irish that though abortion is now legal in their country, the unborn are still human beings. That image is not of an aborted child. It’s a photo of an unborn child! What Facebook finds “sensitive” is not the image of the unborn child — which is just a normal image of fetal development, but the words accompanying it.



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The Benedict Hoption

This is not a real thing. But wouldn’t it be cool if it were?

A reader writes to say he’s thinking about getting involved in Christian beermaking. He sends this along:

1) Inspired by Norcia monks

I’m personally inspired by all monks and many brewers, so the fact that the Norcia monks are brewing beer, and that monks in general have been brewing for hundreds of years, seems to me to be a clear indicator that brewing can be a Christian vocation. Add to that the fact that beer has the ability to bring people together, and that local pubs are in many was an icon of stability and place, I’d say the Ben Op Brewpub is a surefire thing.

2) My personal experience with homebrewing

I’m a chemical biologist, and am currently working in the biotech startup world. I began homebrewing a few years ago when I realized that I was growing microbes in lab, and might as well get something enjoyable out of them by growing them at home. My experience so far has been nothing but a success. While I wouldn’t say I’m a stellar homebrewer (I’m still limited by scale to partial-yeast-extract recipes), I’ve had encouraging reviews from friends and coworkers who’ve tried my brews.

3) Moral / ethical concerns

I became Christian in the Baptist tradition, of which I am still an official member though my mind is far more in line with Orthodoxy. I reconciled my Baptist “upbringing” with a more Biblical attitude towards alcohol many years ago, but in conversations with people who have been personally affected by alcoholism, I’ve been thinking about the role of pubs/bars in society, and what sort of responsibility a brewer has towards his neighbors, and how one might be an effective Christian witness in this vocation.

4) Do you have any readers or contacts in brewing?

I’m interested in you’ve talked to anyone else about how brewing might play a role in the Benedict Option. While I would never venture into such a major career change without the support of my wife, I am seriously considering brewing as a plan B should Christians suddenly find themselves completely unwelcome in my current industry. This is a skill I am intentionally developing, and I would like to know if others are doing so. If you have any contacts, I would be most appreciative.

What do you think? If you can help this guy, let him know in the contents, or write to me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com, and I’ll pass it on to him. Put “BEER” in the subject line, please.

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Israel Folau, Hell, And Australian Politics

Israel Folau, Pentecostal Christian and Australian rugby star, is being persecuted for his faith (Rugby Australia screengrab)

I don’t know about you, but politicians are almost the last people I turn to for theological opinions. But that’s not how Australian progressives and the news media (but I repeat myself) roll this election week in Oz. I kid you not, the lead story here, days before national elections, is whether or not gays are going to hell. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit back at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in an argument over whether gay people will go to hell, after both leaders fielded questions about Christian faith and gay rights.

Mr Morrison accused Mr Shorten of a “cheap shot” over the question on Tuesday and made it clear he did not believe that gay people would go to hell, one day after giving a less direct answer to the question.

Shorten is the Labor Party leader who is trying to gin up anger at Morrison for being less reflexively woke on gays than he ought to be. Scott Morrison, a moderate conservative and practicing Pentecostal, supports the gay marriage law.

Reading this Guardian piece, it appears that on religious liberty, Morrison is something less than a profile in courage and consistency. Excerpt:

In 2016 Morrison claimed that opponents of marriage equality also face “hate speech and bigotry”, equating their experience to that of LGBTI Australians.

Despite his electorate of Cook voting 55% to 45% in favour of same-sex marriage, Morrison mounted a conservative rearguard action calling for greater protection of “religious freedom” in the marriage bill then abstained from the vote in parliament.

Still, if the choice is between a conservative who is an inconstant friend to Christians and to religious liberty, and a progressive who positively wants to drive us out of the public square, well, that’s not much of a choice at all, is it?

Of course Morrison’s squishiness is not good enough for many on the left, who want to drive from public life anyone who suspected of not being sufficiently enthusiastic about LGBT issues. This entire issue has come up in Australian politics because one of the best rugby players in the country, a Pacific Islander and Pentecostal Christian named Israel Folau, publicly quoted a passage from the New Testament listing homosexuals as among those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

If there’s any sort of person I’d be less likely to consult on theological matters than politicians, it would be professional athletes. But the Folau controversy has become huge here. Folau, a big athletic star here, stands to lose his professional career because of the stand he has taken. Excerpt:

Israel Folau has revealed how he resisted the “temptation” of a peace offering from Rugby Australia that would have allowed him to resurrect his playing career.

The Wallabies star described his fallout with the governing body as “challenging” and spoke of being tempted by the “opportunity” to rekindle his career with the NSW Waratahs and Wallabies during a Sydney church address.

The fundamentalist Christian faces being sacked by RA after being found to have committed a high-level code of conduct breach for an Instagram post that said hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.

An independent three-member panel is expected to announce Folau’s sanction this week after deciding the controversial posts left him open to having his four-year, $4m contract torn up.

But, in a video of him speaking at a church service on Sunday afternoon, Folau insisted the process was not finished and the “outcome is yet to be known”.

“Potentially I could get terminated, which means that there’s no more playing contract and therefore no more finances or money coming in,” he said from the lectern. “It would be the first time it has happened to me in my life.

“All the materialistic things I have been able to have over the last number of years are slowly being taken away from me. It’s been really challenging but also it’s been encouraging to myself to see what my God is actually doing.”

Watch Israel Folau. He’s being put to the test — and so far, he’s passing. He reportedly refused $1 million to walk away from the sport, even though the 30-year-old’s career is almost certainly over now. If he is willing to surrender his career, and his wealth, for the sake of standing up for the Gospel, then he will be a model to the rest of us Christians. I say that even though I think it was wildly imprudent for him to post that Bible verse to his Instagram. But he did, and I believe that he should have a right to do that without sacrificing his career. There is nothing liberal about a society that seeks to ruin a man professionally for expressing unpopular religious opinions.

Though is was about politics, not religion, I felt the same way about American quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his controversial stance on the National Anthem. Here’s a big difference, though: Kaepernick’s views were not popular with many NFL fans, but are quite popular with cultural and corporate elites. Nike built a major advertising campaign around presenting Kaepernick as a cultural hero. Folau’s views, which one imagines are also unpopular with rugby fans in highly secular Australia, are viewed by political and business elites as toxic.

You can always tell who has the real power in a society by who, and what, you are not allowed to talk about. In Australia, you have white political and corporate elites working to destroy the livelihood of a Pacific Islander who is a conservative Pentecostal. This is what you call “punching down.” Folau’s final fate will be announced by a rugby board this week — but a Tongan pastor says other Pacific Islander players (who are heavily represented in professional rugby, and most of whom are conservative Christians) are frightened, and may leave the sport in solidarity with Folau.

Bottom line: Israel Folau has violated secular liberalism’s blasphemy code. His career must be burned at the stake — all in the name of progress. The left is openly Orwellian, demanding that in the name of “inclusiveness” and “diversity,” a Tongan athlete who is a fundamentalist Christian must be denied the possibility to practice his craft. Whenever you hear anyone speaking about “inclusiveness” and “diversity,” you may be confident that you are about to hear a left-wing justification for exclusiveness and homogeneity. There are few people in public life today more intolerant than LGBT advocates and their allies — and no one more effectively intolerant, because unlike Tongans and Pentecostals, they hold positions of real cultural and economic power.

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this piece, I said mistakenly that Scott Morrison has hedged on the existence of Hell. In fact, that was his opponent. I have taken those lines down, and I apologize for the error.

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Where Are The Good Christian Men?

Self with Australian Catholic writer Anna Hitchings

Today in Sydney I met Anna Hitchings, who is handling media for me on this week-long trip to Australia. She’s a Catholic journalist who caused a big stir here last week with this article wanting to know where in the heck are the Christian men worth dating? Excerpts:

We are living in a unique time in history. Never has politics been so polarised, never has mainstream society come so near to amorality (although Nero’s Rome came close), and never has it been so difficult for a woman to find a good man.

The latter is, I’ll admit, a bold claim but allow me to elaborate.


Yet one important side-effect of all this that gets little attention is how tough this new environment has become for women, especially Christian women, to find good husbands. The situation is so dire there is now an emerging trend of women abandoning their faith and religious beliefs for the sake of romantic relationships.

Perhaps this is not considered a particularly serious issue when compared with Brexit, abortion on demand or the erosion of free speech, but I would contend it is every bit as important, if not more so. The future of our society depends on good, solid marriages, families and citizens. We need families to produce educated and informed young men and women who will continue fighting the good fight on all the issues confronting our society.

Yet for someone like me – a 32-year-old single Catholic – the situation looks bleak indeed.

I can talk to any young woman in my social circle and they will, one and all, say the same thing: there just aren’t any men. What we mean by this is there is a frightening scarcity of men aged 25-35 who are church-going, single and worldly-wise.

She writes about how she went to Seattle to a wedding last year, and met a Catholic woman who asked if she should move to Australia to try to find a marriage partner. More:

The fact that this experience is almost universally shared speaks for itself. And unfortunately, the growing desperation fuelled by this trend is beginning to result in some rather alarming outcomes. I personally know three Catholic women in their 20s and 30s who abandoned their beliefs in order to be with a man, all in the last few years. One met a man online who turned out to be married (though separated) with children, but she dated him anyway.

Another got married outside the Church, against the advice of her priest, to an agnostic she’d only been dating a short time. The third started going out with an atheist she met at university. A year or two later, she abandoned the Church and those closest to her to marry him.

These were not women whose religious faith extended to a tick on the census. They were all cradle Catholics, well-educated in their faith and very active in either their parishes or Christian communities. And these are just women I know myself – there are undoubtedly others.

Read the whole thing. I told Anna she would light up America with this discussion. Maybe among our European readers too. Christian ladies, what do you think?

And Christian men, likewise?

UPDATE: From a reader:

Contrary to the anecdata you might be getting from twitter or the comments feed, there are some real problems that that young woman is being affected by (and most Christian women I know in her shoes, including some pretty extraordinary ones).

The roots of the problem can be understood here, in Mark Regnerus’ latest book:

The long and short of it is that marriage and sex markets are extremely finicky things. Single digit imbalances in gender ratios can produce dramatic results. It sounds stereotypical but it is generally born out in social research: men demand sex and supply relationship, women demand relationships and supply sex. When marriage/sex markets are skewed towards women (more men than women), the cost of sex goes up, and men behave better (as seen by cheating rates, investment in relationships, etc). When these markets are skewed towards women, men basically behave worse and demand more sex (or, to put it another way, women are incentivized to demand less of men, and those that don’t are frozen out of the market).

Online dating, women in the workplace, pornography, and contraception have also changed these markets, which are always (generally) local markets. The Princeton mom who wrote an op-ed saying women should try to meet mates in college and was ridiculed for it was essentially right, but most people don’t take her advice, and women in college especially elite ones are inclined to focus less on relationships anyways. So they don’t really start looking until after college. This is where the problems start.

Marriage and dating markets are defined by who is in them. The pool for most college-educated women is essentially other college-educated men (you don’t want to date a failson. This isn’t fair to working-class guys, but it’s generally the case). Problem is, for the past 20 years more women have graduated from college than men. (

If you’re a Christian, you want to marry a Christian. Problem is, more women than men practice, almost across the board (the Orthodox and the Mormons are the two general exceptions IIRC). So if you’re a college-educated Christian woman looking for the same…you’re in trouble.

In sum, it’s impossible to imagine a Christian man writing what this young woman has. But I know at least a dozen very successful, attractive, devout Christian women who are in exactly her shoes.

UPDATE.2: There’s a wide divergence of opinion in the comments. I don’t know Anna, though we just met yesterday afternoon. She struck me as smart, funny, and interesting. She also goes to the Latin mass, for what it’s worth. I’ll be seeing her later today, and will ask her what she meant by “worldly-wise,” but I took it far more benignly than many of you. I think she simply meant “someone who enjoys life in the world, and is not some ghostly ascetic or weirdo.” When I was dating after my conversion to Catholicism at age 25 — this was in the early 1990s — it was not easy to find women who were serious about their Catholic faith and also interested in worldly things *in a good way*. I think this issue might speak to the difficulties many have in understanding the Benedict Option. They see it as a kind of binary, either-or thing: either you are serious about the faith (in which case you are monastically withdrawn from the world), or you are engaged in the life of the world, but are therefore not serious about your faith. This is not true.

I am one of the most worldly people I know, but if I can live engaged with the world as a Christian, then I have to also practice disengagement to a real extent. This is what St. Paul meant when he said Christians are to be “in the world, but not of it.” Most of my Christian friends are people who are deeply engaged in worldly pursuits — teaching, the practice of law, medicine, journalism, and so forth. They bring to these professions, and to the people they meet in the world, a deep and sincere Christian faith. It’s not an easy balance to maintain, but it is possible, and indeed necessary.

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View From Your Table

Sydney, Australia

Dinner tonight at the home of a wonderful Franco-Australian family with eight wonderful kids with beautiful manners, and a mama with Breton roots, who knows how to make a crepe. With delicious Australian sauvignon blanc. And now, it’s just past 7, and I’m going to bed, fat and happy.

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Ben Op Arrives In Sydney

I can’t be sure, but think she’s staring into my window (worldswildlifewonders/Shutterstock)

Hey y’all, I made it here to Sydney in one piece, and received a very warm welcome from Paul Morrissey, my host at Campion College. Paul and the college are really going above and beyond the normal bounds of hospitality to make me comfortable. It’s a nearly 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney (plus, for me, about five hours’ total traveling time from Baton Rouge to LAX, via DFW). They sprang for a business-class ticket for me, so I would be able to lie down flat and get some sleep. I have a bad back and chronic neck pain, and I never get off a transcontinental flight without feeling bad. Flights to Europe from the East Coast are half as long as this Australia flight, so it would have been really hard to have made this trip work otherwise. I am really, really grateful to my hosts for being willing to make it more comfortable for me to travel. Being able to sleep comfortably, and to wake up without pain, makes a huge difference. Thank you!

But man oh man, is this 15-hour time difference playing havoc with my sleep rhythms. I arrived early this morning and grabbed about 90 minutes of the most intense sleep I’ve had in years. It was as if I had been drugged. Got up and had lunch with my host Paul. I was all stumbly-wumbly walking into a cafe for lunch, though two big cups of coffee seem to have stabilized the situation. I’m about to go record a radio interview. Who knows what I’ll end up saying. I’ll probably go into full Tracy Jordan meltdown mode, except talking about the patristic age, and why I’m mad at American Airlines for not providing me with an Emotional Support Koala, despite my business class ticket:

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