Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

On topic at Xmas: pick the author

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-12-27


I invite readers to read the pertinent parts of Christmas addresses to Britons (below the fold) from two national leaders, President Ahmadinejad of Iran (a Moslem), from a transcript in the Guardian, and Queen Elizabeth of England (a Christian), from a transcript at Sky News, and one to Americans from their President.

Then guess who wrote which.

I’ll also include some comparisons with the addresses from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Our Kev.

Author A

(Three paragraphs of introductory material discussing violent struggles and the state of the world economy excised)

In such times as these we can all learn something from the past. We might begin to see things in a new perspective. And certainly, we begin to ask ourselves where it is that we can find lasting happiness.

Over the years those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with their talents or their time.

There are those who use their prosperity or good fortune for the benefit of others whether they number among the great philanthropists or are people who, with whatever they have, simply have a desire to help those less fortunate than themselves.

What they offer comes in the form of what can easily be recognised as service to the nation or service to the wider community.

As often as not however, their unselfishness is a simply taken-for-granted part of the life of their family or neighbourhood.

They tend to have some sense that life itself is full of blessings, and is a precious gift for which we should be thankful.

When life seems hard the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.

I think we have a huge amount to learn from individuals such as these. And what I believe many of us share with them is a source of strength and peace of mind in our families and friends.

(Two paragraphs of identifying material excised)

I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life.  Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching.

He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.

We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.

I hope that the Christmas message will encourage and sustain you too, now and in the coming year.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Author B

(One sentence of identifying material excised)

Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain.

The Almighty created the universe for human beings and human beings for Himself.

He created every human being with the ability to reach the heights of perfection.  He called on man to make every effort to live a good life in this world and to work to achieve his everlasting life.

On this difficult and challenging journey of man from dust to the divine, He did not leave humanity to its own devices.  He chose from those He created the most excellent as His Prophets to guide humanity.

All Prophets called for the worship of God, for love and brotherhood, for the establishment of justice and for love in human society. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice.

All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.

Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity’s rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.

The crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy which have made life hard for humanity and continue to put great pressure on all nations have come about because the Prophets have been forgotten, the Almighty has been forgotten and some leaders are estranged from God.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime.

The solution to today’s problems is a return to the call of the divine Prophets.  The solution to these crises is to follow the Prophets – they were sent by the Almighty for the good of humanity.

Today, the general will of nations is calling for fundamental change.  This is now taking place.  Demands for change, demands for transformation, demands for a return to human values are fast becoming the foremost demands of the nations of the world.

The response to these demands must be real and true. The prerequisite to this change is a change in goals, intentions and directions.  If tyrannical goals are repackaged in an attractive and deceptive package and imposed on nations again, the people, awakened, will stand up against them.

Fortunately, today, as crises and despair multiply, a wave of hope is gathering momentum. Hope for a brighter future and hope for the establishment of justice, hope for real peace, hope for finding virtuous and pious rulers who love the people and want to serve them – and this is what the Almighty has promised.

We believe Jesus Christ will return, (identifying material removed) and will lead the world to love, brotherhood and justice.

The responsibility of all followers of Christ and Abrahamic faiths is to prepare the way for the fulfilment of this divine promise and the arrival of that joyful, shining and wonderful age.

I hope that the collective will of nations will unite in the not too distant future and with the grace of the Almighty Lord, that shining age will come to rule the earth.

Once again, I congratulate one and all on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.  I pray for the New Year to be a year of happiness, prosperity, peace and brotherhood for humanity.  I wish you every success and happiness.

Author C

Each year, Christmas brings together families, friends, and communities to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrate the wonderful gifts God has bestowed upon us.  During this season, we remember Jesus’ birth from the Virgin Mary, His justice and mercy that changed the world, and His ultimate sacrifice for all people.  Though Jesus was born humbly in a manger, He was destined to be the Savior of the world.  The light He brought into the world continues to break through darkness and change people’s lives two thousand years later.

This holiday season, as you rejoice in the good news of Jesus’ love, forgiveness, acceptance, and peace, I encourage you to show grace to those less fortunate, just as God showed it to us.  By serving those in need and through other acts of love and compassion, we can honor God’s goodness and affirm the immeasurable value God places on the sanctity of life. (Identifying material discussing military conflict removed).

(Identifying material removed) send our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas.  May you be surrounded by loved ones and blessed by the Author of Life during this joyous holiday and throughout the New Year.

Compare And Contrast

You’ll probably have guessed from the much stronger pro-Jesus stance that Author B was the Iranian President (transcript here) while Author A was the Queen (transcript here) and Author C was Bush the Lesser (though Greater of Two Evils), with the transcript here.

Curiously, the Queen’s message had more partisan talk of military activity (by wordcount) than Bush’s, although this would not be the case if you included Bush’s address to US military forces.

Theologically, while Bush claimed more about Jesus, Ahmadinejad talked more of what Jesus would demand from followers, and reads more like a sermon from an Anglican, and indeed, the address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is strong on a call for action, and even cautious about the promise of a new US president, warning that people are too easily duped by the promise of a saviour, pointing out of political leaders, Augustus has a reasonable claim to fame:

And in fairness he had quite a good claim to fame: he had, after all, restored order to the Roman state and consolidated its global influence as never before.  For many decades, a kind of peace prevailed from Germany to Syria – enforced by typical Roman brutality when any signs of dissent appeared, but still probably better than the chaos of the Roman civil war that had been going on before.  It made sense to hail him as restorer of peace, and to look forward to a long period of stability and prosperity.

It didn’t turn out quite like that, of course; but Augustus’s reign was for many people a sort of golden age.  In later generations, new emperors set themselves the goal of bringing back something of that stability and confidence, and they would describe themselves on their coins and statues as the rescuers of the world’s good order – as ‘saviours’: something that had already been common among the kings of the Middle East in earlier centuries.

So if you’d asked people of Jesus’ day what the word ‘saviour’ meant, the answer would be pretty plain.  It was someone who would bring back the golden age, who would put an end to conflict; you could almost say it was someone who would stop things happening.  Salvation was the end of history, brought about by one unique charismatic leader.

Having read (in the original) the autobiographical Res Gestae Divi Augusti, it is obvious that Augustus, in spite or because of his ruthlessness gaining power, wanted to be remembered as a prince of peace and mercy, and Rowan Williams acknowledges the merit of such claims.

I often waged war, civil and foreign, on the earth and sea, in the whole wide world, and as victor I spared all the citizens who sought pardon.  As for foreign nations, those which I was able to safely forgive, I preferred to preserve than to destroy.  …  Our ancestors wanted (the doors of the Temple of) Janus Quirinus to be closed when throughout the all the rule of the Roman people, by land and sea, peace had been secured through victory.  Although before my birth it had been closed twice in all in recorded memory from the founding of the city, the senate voted three times in my principate that it be closed.

The Queen’s cautious theological references cannot offend, Bush was religiously partisan, while Ahmadinejad was certainly reaching out across a theological divide more than the others (although not to non-believers like me, and less to the lower-than-the-low, the Moslem hypocrites whose claims to piety are belied by killing innocents on holy days in direct contravention of strong statements in the Koran).

It is ironic that the Queen, titular head of a religious denomination, is the least blatantly partisan about Jesus of the three national leaders.  Doubtless that wise monarch (I’ll say that, although I’m in favor of an Australian Republic) has developed a deeper understanding from her long study of the past and observation of our present about just how divisive religious partisanship can be, and how religion can ignite violence, then fan the flames.

It is not surprising that the Iranian President’s address is so blatantly pro-Jesus, as Sura 19 (a.k.a. The Book of Mary) in the Koran considers Mary special (although not special enough to avoid labor pains so bad she wished she’d never been born, see verse 22), of many references to Jesus throughout the Koran (including assent to the doctrine of the virgin birth), at Christmas it is most appropriate to remember that the Book of Mary has the one-day old Jesus delivering what I call "The Sermon from the Bunny-Rug":

Behold!  I am the servant of God.  He has given me the Scripture, appointed me a Prophet, made me blessed wheresoever I may be, enjoined upon me prayer and charity so long as I remain alive, made me dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblessed.  Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!

I wonder if those who criticized Channel 4’s programming would disagree with much of what he said, after actually reading it (unless they, as quoted in "The Age", identified, in their own minds, the US and the Coalition of the Warring as bullies and expansionist powers, seeing an off-the-rack jacket and claiming it tailor-made for themselves).  I can certainly see the Zionists protesting – but an address by one of their leaders would have been more inappropriate, given the Judaic stance that Jesus was nothing special.

Some critics of the decision by Channel 4 have a point, that Iran the state (mainly because of Ahmadinejad’s difficulties with the theocratic "upper house") can be hypocritical on human rights, but then again, Britain has supported the US tactics of extraordinary rendition and torture (and I’d imagine the Queen is against such obscenities).

The only way Bush and his supporters have advanced the spiritual welfare of millions is by taking on the burden of wealth and power, ensuring others are blessed according to the Sermon on the Mount.  However, the "sanctity of life" bit is pure hypocrisy coming from a pro-torturer, pro-executioner and a belligerent who promoted untruth as casus belli.

I wonder which peace the average citizen would prefer to have, which homily would be least hypocritical, a Saturnalian edict from Augustus, or the scant peace allowed by Abrahamist zealots over the centuries and eulogized by Bush?

But that is purely hypothetical.

If you are a Christian and attended a church this Xmas, go through the four addresses (including the one from Rowan Williams).  Which address was the most like the one from your own cleric?  My bet is that of those from leaders of nation states, you would nominate the address of the Iranian President.

And what message can we find at the website of KRudd, our PM?  Well, here is the list of headlines on the front page of pm.gov.au as of 2008-12-27.

  • 24 Dec : Appointment of Departmental Secretaries
  • 22 Dec : Holden to build all-new small car in Australia
  • 21 Dec : Government launches 12 year plan to reduce homelessness in Australia
  • 20 Dec : Australia provides support for Afghanistan Elections
  • 19 Dec : National Peacekeeping Memorial Design Unveiled

Actually, the Kevster’s Xmas message is here, tucked away under Media Releases.  For an avowed Christian, guess how many times the word "Jesus" is mentioned?

Jesus Scores for Xmas 2008 Messages:

If we count the number of times the word "Jesus" is mentioned in the speeches, do we get the rankings most Christians would expect?

  • KRudd: 0
  • Archbishop Rowan Williams: 1
  • Queen Elizabeth: 2
  • George W. Bush: 3
  • Ahmadinejad: 6

OK, OK, OK, that’s not a word frequency count, but even if you included pronouns/synonyms/epithets referring to "Jesus", I reckon Ahmadinejad’s score would still womp those of the other political leaders.

Notes:

  • Hat tip to Skepticlawyer for "Boxing Day Funnies" (2008-12-26) which prompted my comparisons of addresses by alerting me to the furore about AhmInADinnerJacket’s address.

Notes:

  • Update: Silly me, I quoted the KRudd 2007 address.  As North Coast Voices correctly pointed out, no 2008 address can be found on the PM’s site. (So Jesus score is DEFINITELY zero).
  • If we can point to anything official, then, it is KRudd’s end-of-sitting-year speech in Hansard 2008-12-04 (I think it is a draft, so the link will change). The Christmassy bit from this speech is below:

    As we approach the Christmas season, there are often debates about Christmas being a Christian festival or a non-Christian festival in various parts of the world. I think the truth is this: whether we are of faith or not of faith, this is an important season for us all. For those of us who are of faith, it celebrates the birth of the Christ child. For those beyond faith it is a celebration for all families, and all therefore enjoy this season which lies ahead. Mr Speaker, all the best for Christmas, and to all members of this parliament and for all those who serve the members of parliament so represented.

  • For the record, here is Turnbull in the same session:

    This is, of course, the season of Christmas and we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, the birth of the man—the son of God—who established a faith that is as inspiring as it is mysterious, a faith that is based on love. This is truly, then, the season of love, and that is why families come together. It is why we come together to eat, for Christmas feasts, for lunches and dinners. We remember, too, that there is nothing more human than families coming together to share a meal. Indeed, the Eucharist is at the centre of our own faith, of our own liturgy—that sacred meal. We should also remember that not all of the members of this House are members of the Christian faith. Indeed, I think it is important today to remember that a number of our colleagues around this time of year— around the Christmas season, if you like— will be celebrating the feast of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival. That is a festival of lights and it celebrates the indomitable nature of the Jewish people. It is important to note that at this time, because in the terrible events at Mumbai—that terrible terrorist attack in which two Australians were killed, one of whom was a leading citizen of my own community in Wentworth—the terrorists targeted a Jewish yeshiva and murdered a number of Jewish people there, including a rabbi. I know that when Jews around the world, including those who are our colleagues here, are celebrating the festival of lights and the indomitability of the Jewish people, they will have that terrible event in Mumbai in their minds and be reminded of their resilience and their resistance to terrorism.

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6 Responses to “On topic at Xmas: pick the author”

  1. Alas we’ve had an ill-mannered Channel 4 supporter turn up on my blog. I’d have been more willing to cut them slack (despite the fact that they are in receipt of taxpayer largesse), but if they need defenders like that, then they can go to buggery.

    Why is it that the most septic lefties turn up at our place?

  2. Dave Bath said

    SL: “Why is it that the most septic lefties turn up at our place?”

    Probably because the SkeptiClawyers have generally balanced posts, which are more inviting to the left than those blogs written by right-wingnuts. Then again, you might be happy that lefties read libertarians such as yourself, the ALS blog, and Andrew Norton (and at least some of the Club Troppo authors), as this allows the possibility that your ideological opponents might be swayed by you.

    And I hope I’ve never been a “septic lefty” on your site. If so, let me know what has been offensive (you have my email) so I don’t sin again.

  3. You have never been rude on our site – never ever. Don’t even think of it as a possibility. We want lefties like you to comment. To be fair there are plenty like you who visit and comment regularly — in fact they may even be a slight majority. But we have an expanding ‘moderations’ folder full of people who just turn up to abuse us, too. The very worst comments don’t see the light of day, but enough get through for you to get an idea of the type.

    Thing is, I can understand lefties turning up at Blair’s and getting very angry, because he trashes everything you guys stand for, and he’s very funny and talented. So you get political differences mixed with envy, which is pretty toxic at the best of times. But we’re both polite and fair, and we still get the same behaviour from enough people to fill our mod folder to bursting.

    Thing is, the righties only do that to lefty blogs that are the mirror of Blair’s. They don’t do it on centrist or libertarian blogs, even though we regularly argue against their views on abortion, say, or gay marriage, or law and order (I know this from my stints at Troppo as well as at Catallaxy and the ALS).

    I dunno. Maybe it’s too much Christmas Cheer, because there’s been a lot of it during the last week.

  4. Dave Bath said

    SL
    (This is getting nominally off-topic, but what the heck. The meta theme of my post here is about uninformed reactions, so this thread is meta-on-topic).

    I cannot see why any lefty would feel the need to abuse SL and LE. You guys are MUCH more nuanced than I can be sometimes in my posts.

    To be fair, my comments on right-wingnut or pro-theist sites MAY get them riled, but when I am critical, I do try and work using arguments within their mindset. (My contra-Athanasios comments at DogfightAtBankstown, for example, don’t use standard Dawkins-like arguments (indeed I’ve criticized Dawkins’ approach here and here), but rather use the arguments of other theological schools, especially using one Church Father (Origen) against another (Athanasios). The best attacks on a proposition use the core assumptions in the worldview of the author (my best attack on Christianity uses theological, not scientific, weaponry).

    Your moderation burden makes me count the blessings of being an obscure little blog.

  5. […] Dave Bath has an excellent Xmas message ‘compare and contrast’ post here. Posted by deusexmacintosh Filed in Humour, Politics ·Tags: […]

  6. I enjoyed this comparison very much. Particularly the Jesus count. And I assure you Dave, you have never ever been rude.

    Dunno why we attract crazy lefties? I really don’t have much beef for people who are needlessly rude (whether left wing or right wing). One of the partners I used to work for said needless rudeness is a sign you’ve got nothing to back your argument up.

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