We are one church, the Oz on Psalms, more on J Peterson

The churches of Maryborough (Queensland version) proclaim, “We are one church.”


It is really well done and worth a watch.


Psalms: Sometimes the headline says it all: the Australian headlined a magazine piece, “Psalms capture humanity – in all its splendour and horror. It was a tour de force by Peter Craven, literary critic described by my fellow Fairfax cadet Susan Wyndham as “a “literary hack” who can knock out a 1500-word book review in 90 minutes, writing longhand in exercise books with a busted fountain pen dipped in black ink, then depends on a flatmate to type and e-mail his words.”

He knows the Psalms and relates them to the agony of Israel/Gaza. After discussing the solace to be found in Psalm 121, “My help cometh from the lord”, Craven takes on a complex Psalm.

“Let’s switch though to one of the great psalms of lamentation (which everyone knows, if only because of Boney M) Psalm 137: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we / wept, / When we remembered Zion.” The pop song version has a jauntiness that is weirdly at odds with the tone of this supremely sombre, elegiac poem, which is a long way from being just tristful nostalgia, though that’s somehow how it stays in the mind (almost as a protection measure) in this psalm of exile and captivity. It also includes one of the greatest lines in the history of human expression, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” Don’t worry about that archaic feminine pronoun. The Douay version simply has “Let my right hand be forgotten”. But all translations have a sense of Jewish homeland as something as crucial as the movement of the body. 

“But that’s not the only thing in Psalm 137. It ends with words so terrible that the human mind can barely retain them. There is the denunciation of the “daughter of Babylon” and then we get this: “Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” The poet and critic William Empson said he had never heard anything so horrible as the dulcet voices of little choir boys at Oxford singing these terrible words in plainchant. He took it as showing how barbaric our Judeo-Christian religion was, just how much horror and hatred underlay it.

“Does it? No, though the challenge it poses is terrible. A lot has been made ­absolutely naturally of the treatment of “little ones”. What the psalm does is ­express the reality of this form of obscene hatred as part of a poignantly remembered love of country. But does anyone doubt this kind of savagery is implicit in any act of war, however justifiable and however much we back away from the horrifying barbarism of its expression? It is part of the greatness of the psalms that in the midst of the exaltation of the glory of the Most High they are everywhere full of ­terror and fear and the monstrousness of the enemy. For so many songs for ­children, so much comfort food for the soul, they are also a living nightmare that presents with a maximum nakedness and absolutely vehement intensity the horror of being subjected to the human enmity of people who seek to destroy the Jew who draws out in the most fundamental way the grand piano of our feeling for the oppressed.”

Obadiah is not as sanguine as Craven appears to be about the emotions expressed at the end of Psalm 137. it’s one of those places in the Bible for him, where a human emotion rather than God’s will is being expressed. But all of a sudden, in 2023, that emotion is being represented on two sides of a war, and it is tearing us all apart.


Bah! Humbug: And so much for people who think Christianity has vanished from the media.


Danish News: The Danish government has decided that every congregation of the state Church of Denmark must accept women priests. A 1978 exemption from the Equal Treatment Act exempted religious organisations from equality rules. The Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Louise Schack-Elholm., has now removed this for the state church
A majority of the Church of Denmark’s bishops meeting in Aarhus released a statement in 2022 asking the state to abolish the exemption. One conservative minister in Denmark had a good point: This removes the possibility of theological disagreement on this issue. Whatever your view on women in charge of churches, do we want the government to make church decisions?


The other side of the Jordan: The Other Cheek gave readers a taste of Jordan Peterson’s new book on the Bible, We who wrestle with God, asking if the is was a book about the Bible that lacks faith. We thought that was self evident, despite the Australian’s Greg Sheridan recently declaring Canada’s most famous psychologist a Christian.

Being a follower of one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung, Peterson is into archetypes – Jung taught religion was a product of the patterns of human behaviour that forms archetypes. In the exerpt quoted, Peterson was crtical of AI after he asked a program to write him a story. “I recently provided ChatGPT with the following prompt: ‘Tell your version, in a  thousand words, of the greatest possible story.'”

Peterson was offended the program came cack with a story with a female hero.

“The first story generated by the prompt featured a female protagonist, Elara—but one playing an  archetypally male role. In consequence, I repeated the same question to the AI system, this time  insisting upon a male in the prime role, and then followed up with the following query: “Why did  you first write this with a female protagonist? The classic hero is male.”

Peterson then has a conversation with ChatGPT which had built into it a bias towards female heroes.

Now there are two interesting reaction to this story of Peterson’s storymaking. One is outrage that ChatGPT has built in commitment to deversity, a built-in positive discrimination system. That is where Peterson directs his outrage. He calls this bit of coding by ChatGPT’s creators as a “decision by those who overlaid a layer of propaganda.” Some conservatives make the claim the AI is destined to manipulate culture, in a eliberate polt.

The second is Peterson’s notion of the Jungian archetype of hero being male. Is being a hero gendered? What about Joan of Arc or Corrie Ten Boom?

Obadiah can see the sense in both types of outrage.
• Surely the programmers of ChatGPT should be a little more upfront about the filters in the system. We will need to become aware that AI could impose a worldview in what it presents.

• Jordan Peterson’s archetypes have a musty British Empire tone about them. He’s not neutral, and unthinking gender stereotyping is as much an imposition on reality as whatever ChatGPT might be up to.

Correction: The last par of the Psalms story originally had Sheriadn instead of Craven.