Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The truth may imprison you in a media vortex

My friend and colleague Jolyon White is revealed today as a direct action taker in political action. Mainstream media have not connected him to the church (to this point), but the blogosphere has.

I fear a media vortex and pray it will not damage Jolyon who is a great bloke. I disagree with his political perspective while admiring his courage in pursuing better deals for the poor. He has tried to tell the truth, but the way it has been done may drag him into a media vortex.


Scott M said...

It is one thing to disagree with his political perspective Peter. But what about his actions?

Russell Norman came out firmly against the vandalism. It may even have repercussions for his executive assistant. Will the church have the same sort of backbone, and speak the truth in love in this situation?

carl jacobs said...

This is much more than 'direct action.' This is electoral interference. If Richard Nixon did this kind of thing, the Keepers of Enlightened Opinion would categorize it as a 'Dirty Trick.' Personally, I think it should be subject to criminal prosecution. I trust therefore that the Gander will receive what has already been designated for the Goose. Or are we to say that any action is legitimized by the cause for which it is taken?


carl jacobs said...

btw ...

RE: "Social Justice Coordinator"

Would someone please be good enough to define 'Social Justice' for me? I don't really understand what liberals mean when they use this phrase. Actual justice means 'right behavior rewarded and wrong behavior punished.' Social Justice seems to me a corporate adaptation of an entirely different concept. Here is how I understand it.

Justice is being enabled by intent or structure to act upon your authentic desires.

Injustice is being prevented by intent or structure from acting upon your authentic desires.

I am looking for correction, and a standard that defines it. Subjective concepts of 'fairness' do not count. Fairness simply means "I like it." That isn't a standard.


Anonymous said...

For far too long the so-called social justice wing has been dominated by the extreme left and has been given a virtual monopoly within the church in defining what constitutes political, social and economic justice.

This is unacceptable and morally wrong. The Anglican church is made up of people from all over the political spectrum. Yet in giving the Left a monoploy on political issues the voices and views of those who are not on the Left is effectively silenced. There can be no justification for this. There needs to be far more debate and for more genuine political diversity in the church and the social justice “enablers” should be sacked. Left wing political activists should operate as individuals, NOT as sponsered and paid representatives of the Anglican Church.

Lucy said...

Carl I think that Jolyon's role as SJC is to help the diocese respond to national/community-wide issues in a constructive, effective and co-ordinated manner; e.g. NZ has a real problem with liquor outlets and pokie machines being freely allowed to wreck communities. Jolyon was/is seeking to help parishes make a contribution to the widespread opposition many NZers feel to these.

It is interesting that so many are so easily angered by what he's done (and he has done wrong)... but the 200,000 NZ children who wake up in poverty every day don't seem to have the same effect???

Lucy Eban

Father Ron Smith said...

I think Jolyon made a mistake here. Whatever one's social or political position - to participate in what amounts to illegal activity is not warranted, and in this case a bit 'over the top'. However, the action has got the media talking. BUT: is that a good thing in this instance?

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, despite your plea for political tolerance on this issue, you seem to be getting hot around the collar against 'left wing' activists. I wonder if a 'right wing' activist had done the same thing, you would be quite so vehement in your rabis condemnation of what you discern as the impropriety of politics in the Church?

Rosemary Behan said...

What shocks me .. and no one else apparently from the lack of comment .. is that someone who holds an important office in the Anglican church has a 'partner.' Surely they should have either a wife or a girlfriend?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
'Partner' is the media's coverall term these day (as far as I can tell) for 'girlfriend', 'de facto wife/husband', 'spouse'. Jolyon has a girlfriend; they live in separate cities.

Andy S said...

Lucy says It is interesting that so many are so easily angered by what he's done (and he has done wrong)... but the 200,000 NZ children who wake up in poverty every day don't seem to have the same effect???

The problem is that destroying political billboard does not feed one hungry child - not one!

And underlying your statement is the assumption that those you don't agree with you politically do not care about hungry children - whereas in reality the argument might really be about what is the best way to provide the framework whereby we can create a society without hungry children.

Not that that will ever be fully achieved in this fallen world - but with good governance we can make it better.

And good governance does rely upon listening to what others have to say and debating ideas with open mind - not billboard vandalism nor secret recordings of private conversations - the two great election issues of today, neither of which will advance the causes dear to all our hearts - the creation of a society where all our children can flourish and prosper.

Anonymous said...

I just watched Jolyon being interview on TV in an open neck shirt. I was left wondering what difference it would have made if he was wearing his clerical collar. Not that I wear my collar 100% of the time, but I did sense something of a tension between his personal political convictions and that of his vocation as a church leader.

Malcolm Falloon

Lucy said...

Andy - you know what they say about assumptions don't you ... in this case you're way off the mark.

My apologies for not writing more clearly.

My point was: many people have become very angry because Jolyon defaced billboards, it's HUGE news in NZ; but every day 200,000 children wake up in poverty and it's not news of any size. That's shameful.

I did not write to support Jolyon's actions, I think they were immature and ill-conceived ... but his passion to see change and a more just society is worth serious thought, and more.

Lucy Eban

Mark Baddeley said...


I think you're comparing apples and oranges here. In a democracy committed to free speech, vandalizing another party's political adverts, a party whose convictions you disagree with, is, or should be, some kind of crime. A fairly serious one as it attacks the heart of our system of government. It's no less serious than attacking journalists in an effort to control what they print or say.

To say, "hmmmn, while all the outrage at this crime when people are hungry and the guy who committed the crime cares about hungry people" is bad moral reasoning. You don't get to do something wrong in order to pursue a good end. Law applies to the political concerns and activities of the left as much as the political concerns and activities of the right.

He gets kudos for his concern for the poor. And he should be charged for his criminal behaviour. The two don't cancel each other out, they coexist.

And if this is some kind of political statement, an act of civil disobedience, and justified on those grounds, then he should be happy to accept the consequences of his breaking the law. For civil disobedience to be effective in unmasking tyrannical abuses of power those doing the disobedience must accept the consequences of their disobedience so the true injustice can be seen.

The Anglican Church needs to remove him from his position as well. Leaders need to be above reproach, and in an age when people are already concerned about incivility in civic discourse, this is anything but.

It also puts too heavy a weight on the media. The media reports news, it doesn't remind people of things that are ongoing issues. If two hundred thousand people suddenly fell below the poverty line that would likely be news. The fact that two hundred thousand people continue to be hungry isn't any more 'news' than the fact that we still don't have permanent space settlements. That's not necessarily a moral problem unless you think the media should do almost everything.

The Greens defacing another party's billboards under the leadership of the Anglican Church's guy for (social) justice? How can that not be news?

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you everyone for thoughtful discussion of this matter.

Two points among many I would like to take up:

(1) I understand 'social justice' to be about justice in social relationships, which includes justice re access and use of resources available to society for the sustaining of life, justice re treatment of one part of society by another (e.g. police/public; accused/judiciary; sick/healthy; vulnerable/powerful), justice re promulgating and implementing laws relating to social relationships (e.g. is a proposed law applicable to all of society without prejudice?), and justice re fair, open, transparent and democratic processes of forming government and of governments governing. I am afraid, Carl, that I cannot make much sense of your definition of justice in relation to my understanding of social justice, since your definition seems narrowly constrained to individual wants, desires and behaviours.

(2)If everything is fine in society there would be little use for a social justice worker(s) in the mission of the church. But mostly things are not fine in society because there are poor, sick, vulnerable, hard done by and badly treated people. Some of these folk turn out to be wealthy and/or educated and/or able to access wealth (some of us poor clergy have lawyers and accountants as friends and ask them to help us!) and well able to make use of the apparatus of laws and rights to ensure that their life situation becomes better.

Others do not have the ways and means to assert their rights, ensure they are fairly treated, and to improve themselves under their own efforts. Social justice worker(s) are an attempt to give voice to these situations, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to remind society of the hidden, silenced vulnerable people. Inevitably this will take on a 'leftwing' character, but the question, as noted in a comment above, is not whether our social justice worker(s) are representative of all political views in the church, but whether they do a good job worthy of the gospel of Jesus, and, dare I say it, whether they do as Jesus would do.

Anonymous said...

Father Ron,

"Shawn, despite your plea for political tolerance on this issue, you seem to be getting hot around the collar against 'left wing' activists. I wonder if a 'right wing' activist had done the same thing, you would be quite so vehement in your rabis condemnation of what you discern as the impropriety of politics in the Church"

For a start, Right Wing activists generally believe in strong property rights and respect for other peoples property. Attacking other peoples property is part and parcel of the Left's ideological worldview.

But to answer your question, yes I would get "hot under the collar" if it had been a Right Wing activist.

But my point is that in this case the activist concerned is employed by the Church to promote justice. To me his attack on other peoples property renders him unfit to do so, as respect for others and their property is, in my view, an essential pillar of any notion of justice.

Justice must be about means as much as it is about ends, and the ends do not justify the means.

I question the whole notion of Church employed "social justice" advocates. This strikes me as simply a way of allowing the Left to dominate the debate and to dominate Church policy.

That is unjust.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, I do question your assertion here that 'social justice' is the prerogative of interested 'lefties'. In fact, the current 'national' Government is doing what it can to uphold justice to Women and gays. They can't be accused of being what you are disposed to call 'activists'.

Social justice demands the attention of all political parties - even the conservatives! Let's not use this incident as a blow for your rightist philosophy.

Anonymous said...


"Shawn, I do question your assertion here that 'social justice' is the prerogative of interested 'lefties'."

If we are being honest then in both theory and practice "social justice" is really just socialism and cultural Marxism.

The Church should not be captive to a small and unrepresentative group of left wing activists with regards to political, social and economic issues, and in reality that is the case.

Moreover there needs to be far more serious debate in the Church with regards to what actually constitutes justice. Much of what I hear from the Church in the name of social jutice strikes me as having little at all to do with real justice and everything to do with cultural Marxism and socialist economic violence.

The revelation that one of the Churches "social justice enablers" was a Green Party Member and involved in violence against property makes this incident worthy of sparking more debate on this issue.

How many "social justice enablers" come from the Right? I would bet a weeks wages that there are none.

This issue does need to be debated.

Father Ron Smith said...

Nor should the Church be captive to right-wing usurers.

Anonymous said...


It shouldn't be captive to any single political point of view, but clearly it has. Thats what I'm saying.

Now I'm sure that for left wing Anglicans the current situation is just fine. But for those of us who are not, our voices have effectively been silenced. The irony in this is that the same left wing social justice enablers are always talking about being "inclusive", but there is nothing inclusive about their near total dominance of the Churches political views and voice.

The Church should not have social justice enablers at all in my opinion, but if they must do so they should be geniunely inclusive and ensure that a range of political views are represented.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, I think you need to read a little more of the Old Testament - let alone of the attitudes of Jesus in the New. The Hebrew word 'Mishpat'
is frequently mentioned in the O.T. as testimony to God's requirement of 'Justice and Mercy'.

Anonymous said...


My point is not that the Bible does not teach the need for justice, my point is that the "justice" advanced by the Left, and therefore by Social Justice enablers, is not automatically Biblical justice, nor even automatically justice at all.

The assumption by persons such as yourself that Biblical justice means Left wing economic and social policy, is just that, an assumption, and one that has been allowed to dominate the Churches thinking on political issues, to the detriment of the Church.

What we need is more debate, more political diversity and far less Left wing dominance and uncritical acceptance of left wing policy.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm sure you will have many followers, Shawn of your philosophy. I simply am not one of them.