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The Open Mind of the Sydney Morning Herald

This article was first published in the Canberra Declaration here – 

IMage – BigStock

As I waited for the train home at an increasingly crowded Wynyard station, I caught a glimpse of the new Sydney Morning Herald advert. What struck me was the picture of someone holding a Bible. If the purpose of an advert is to get your attention — it worked. As soon as I got home, I clicked on and watched this fascinating advert. It tells us a great deal about both the Sydney Morning Herald and our current cultural elites.

The text is:

Dear Closed minds, you’ve polarised, ostracised, you started wars, racism, sexism, you really changed the world (over picture of pollution), so consider this a cease and desist (order). On-going closed-mindedness will be met with extreme deep inquiry, difficult questions (over picture of someone holding a bible) — don’t say we didn’t warn you. Sydney Morning Herald — Minds wide open.

The written text around it also adds:

It takes an open mind to read past the headline. After all, below the headline is where balance thrives, and where every angle of a story is dissected. It’s where your opinions and beliefs are met, challenged, and informed by extreme nuance whether in art, life, or politics.Sometimes the most powerful statement you can make is listening to someone else’s. Don’t affirm your beliefs — evolve them.

It is clear from this text that the SMH regards itself as being open-minded, balanced, nuanced, listening to other points of view — a paper where every angle of a story is dissected. As a subscriber to the SMH, and a regular reader for the past couple of years, I can state, that with a few honourable exceptions, that this is rarely the case.

The SMH has a party line on most of the progressive and political issues of the day — and rarely deviates from its chosen beliefs. Whether it’s BLM, climate change, Donald Trump, Brexit, transgenderism, the Liberal Party, sex, and sexuality, I can usually tell you what the angle will be before I’ve even read the article.

In effect, what the SMH advert is saying is that if you do not accept their perspective and point of view, then you are responsible for wars, climate change (the phrase ‘you have changed the world’ is said over a picture of pollution), racism, sexism etc. If you don’t believe what they believe, then they accuse you of having a closed mind. It’s the ultimate circular argument. ‘You have an open mind if you agree with me!’ Which is of course itself a bit closed-minded. As is the somewhat ominous ‘cease and desist’ order. Apparently if we don’t go along with the SMH, we must cease and desist! How open-minded!

Now the instant retort to that — apart from accusing me of having a closed mind — is to say, ‘you are only saying that because of your political/religious position.’ As for political, that won’t wash. In traditional political terms, I suspect I am well to the left of most SMH readers. As for religious — I plead guilty. I hold to a Christian philosophical position. A position which teaches that we ought not to be afraid of truth, because all truth is God’s truth. A position which argues for an open mind, but one that is based on humbly acknowledging that our minds are limited. A position which tells us that truth must be spoken in love — and that ultimately neither political nor religious leaders are going to be the Saviour of the world.

But what about the SMH? What religious/philosophical position do they hold? After reading hundreds of articles and columns, let me suggest that the evidence is clear — they hold to all the ‘progressive’ doctrines of the age — not least their hatred of any form of biblical Christianity, which they mischaracterise, mock and caricature with seeming impunity. The SMH reflects the beliefs of progressives, whose views have so evolved that they are now at the top of the tree — and all they need is affirmation, which the SMH duly provides.

“The picture of the young man holding a Bible was the illustration for asking ‘difficult questions’.” Of course, the SMH did not mean that they would allow our culture to be challenged and asked difficult questions from a biblical perspective — no, they were going the opposite route. The only reason that someone can believe the Bible must be because they do not question and think. The SMH are going to ‘educate’ us out of believing the Bible.

There are so many illustrations of this stance, but let’s take the most current — Julia Baird’s column in last Saturday’s Herald. It stated clearly that the Anglican church has a serious dangerous problem with women; that Anglican women are more likely to be abused; that church leaders should immediately repent and denounce this from pulpits this coming Sunday; that on a previous occasion when Julia had said this, she got death threats and then clergy wives ‘came in droves’ to talk about being raped, controlled and attacked; and that this was as a result of not just individual sin, but a systemic problem driven by the churches’ teaching. This is about as subtle, nuanced and balanced as the ISIS guide to Israel!

I have no objection to the SMH giving Julia Baird a platform for her views, or an opportunity to continue her longstanding personal campaign against Sydney Evangelical Anglicans. But if they really do claim that they engage in ‘extreme deep inquiry’, and ‘dissect every angle of the story’, then they should at least permit a different perspective, and indeed inquire into the research and what is behind the somewhat over-dramatised headlines. On the off chance that they really mean what they say in their advert, I have written to them to ask if they would be willing to allow this. Will I hold my breath?

There are people who are so closed-minded that they believe that no-one who believes the Bible can be open-minded. I happen to think that biblical teaching demands an open mind and absolutely rejects a narrow know-it-all fundamentalism, whether religious or secular. This does not mean a mind that it retains nothing and is so open that what goes in automatically flows out — but rather one which fits the characteristics of what Paul tells the Romans:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
~ Romans 12:2

Because I know the One who is the Truth, I don’t have to have a political position on everything which depends on me (or my tribe) being right about everything. Which is why I am open-minded about how to deal with climate change, or how to combat racism, or even how to deal with domestic violence in the Church.

Humility, love, truth, compassion, tolerance, equality, diversity all stem from a Christian worldview. The SMH may be sincere in wanting these fruits, but the reality is that they won’t have them without the roots. The SMH once had a proud Christian ethos. It appears to have left that, and instead just follows whatever Woke fashion comes out of Harvard, Yale, and Oxford — which is about as polarising and ostracising as one can get. I hope that the SMH, and indeed the whole of Australia can return to its Christian roots. If not, how can we expect to retain the fruits?

PS: If you want a good example of journalism and an open mind, read Greg Sheridan’s outstanding article in The Weekend Australian — “Did Trump Destroy Evangelical Christianity?

Balanced, nuanced, informative, challenging, asking difficult questions but not assuming all the answers. Brilliant — the product of an open and informed mind. And I say that not because I agreed with everything that was written. That’s what being open-minded is — recognising the qualities and virtues of those you might disagree with. Not seeking to silence them with mockery.

PS.  Since I published this the SMH have come up with another ‘balanced’ article demanding that the Anglican church change its doctrine.   And I have had no response to my offer!

Why Christians Must Continue to Cry Freedom – Canberra Declaration

19 comments

  1. Whether it’s BLM, climate change, Donald Trump, Brexit, transgenderism, the Liberal Party, sex, and sexuality, I can usually tell you what your angle will be before I’ve even read your article.

    You really don’t do irony. Is your mind closed to the possibility your god doesn’t exist?

    1. Yes – I do do irony….and no my mind is not closed to the possibility that God doesn’t exist. However it appears that your question is framed in such a way that you can allow no possibility for God existing….try thinking…

      1. David, as examples of opinion writers you have given one from the SMH (whom you don’t agree with) and ONE from The Australian (whom you do agree with). Is this balanced?
        And it does seem rather ironic that the stable that The Australian comes from is the one well known for its melodramatic headlines.

      2. Yes – its very balanced. You clearly have problems with the concept of balance. I cited the SMH one because it was the SMH who were claiming to be balanced and examine everything from a wide perspective. I gave the example of their article on Sydney Anglicans. Not even your blinkered eyes could claim that it (or the following article was balanced). I cited Greg Sheridans because it is a balanced article (and not one I entirely agree with). Your attempt to demean the article by attacking the publication with a meaningless name call (can you name one newspaper that does not use melodramatic headlines?) is just irrational. I have rarely seen articles on different perspectives in the SMH, but have often found them in the Australian (pro-anti climate change, pro-anti Trump, pro-anti indigenous parliament etc). MAybe time to come out of your sneering, blinkered bunker?

      3. David, your article might have been a little more ‘balanced’ if you had told us what Julia Baird was ACTUALLY writing about. You did not mention that she was discussing a report on the Anglican Church in Australia, not the Sydney Diocese. Was that report ‘balanced’? What do you mean by ‘balanced’?
        And what do you mean by ‘pro-anti indigenous parliament’?

      4. I did mention Baird’s article – and she was writing about her own personal vendetta against Sydney Anglicans…she loves the wider more progressive liberal Anglicans. No the report was not balanced…

        There were those who were pro having an indigenous parliament and those who were anti…

      5. David, as far as I can tell Julia Baird was writing about a report on domestic abuse. So if ‘she was writing about her own personal vendetta against Sydney Anglicans’ why would her final sentence be ‘The problem is NATIONAL’ (my emphasis)?
        You have contrasted Sydney Anglicans with ‘the wider more progressive liberal Anglicans’. The one ‘doctrine’ she discusses in her piece is basically complementarianism. So are you saying that an Anglican church in Australia is ‘progressive’ and liberal’ if it doesn’t follow the Sydney diocese in its position on complementarianism?
        And is ‘an indigenous parliament’ a serious topic of conversation in Australia or just in The Australian?

      6. Yes an indigenous parliament is a topic of conversation in Australia – as it should be. And yes Julia Baird is as confused and inconsistent as you point out. And yes – the rest of the Anglican church in Australia is largely liberal/progressive – although there are honourable exceptions.

      7. David, just to clarify what you mean by ‘honourable exceptions’ to ‘the rest of the Anglican church in Australia [being] largely liberal/progressive’, would any of these ‘honourable exceptions’ allow women to be senior minister or to preach regularly to the whole congregation?

    2. Dear Agnes,
      Is your mind open to the possibility that God does exist? If so, how are you currently engaging with that possibility?
      But does an ‘open mind’ mean that we can never come to a decision about anything? Must we permanently be looking for answers without ever coming to a conclusion? If we reach a conclusion about something does that mean we have a ‘closed mind’?
      If some people come to the conclusion that we are in a ‘climate emergency’ does that mean that they have a closed mind?
      If some people come to the conclusion that anybody can be any ‘gender’ they wish to be, does that mean that they have a closed mind?
      Then there was that fellow, Neville Chamberlain. An example of a closed mind, if there ever was. He reached the decision that the UK had to declare war on Germany. And look where that got us. Millions of people saved from Nazi oppression.
      Then there was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He closed his mind and reached the decision that he had to oppose the Nazis. He got executed for his troubles. Same with Hans and Sophie Scholl. Terrible examples of closed minds. They also opposed the Nazis and got executed for doing so.
      Wouldn’t it be far better if all politicians kept an open mind and never decided anything? An open mind, for example, about whether or not pollution is harmful. And as for prosecuting criminals, well best to have an open mind on whether or not that’s a good idea.
      Open minds are such wonderful things. I think I’ll have an open mind about whether or not the earth is flat and whether or not the sun is at the centre of the universe. Only people with closed minds can have reached a conclusion about those things. And we know how bad it is to have a closed mind. I take it, Agnes, that your mind is still open to the possibility that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves round the earth?

      1. Mike,
        Of course Agnes is open minded as evidenced by the name changes, from Betty, and Mark. But the boringly consistent thread of comment is to deride and belittle, with little to no substance.
        Maybe the comments fall in line with GK Chesterton’s wit, description of an “open mind”, which is in reality a fixed, closed, or paradoxically, ” a really open mind is an empty mind.”
        GKC, “An open mind is really the mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open in order to shut…the object of opening the mind as of opening the mouth is to shut on something solid.”
        There is something of a closed mind in the SMH claim (and in those of atheists) of open -mindedness.

  2. The clue of what the SMH is like is with the giveaway “dear Closed minds” just as it is from a pharisaic guilt inducing preacher that lacks authority in their teaching. Of course they will be mocking Christianity with what appears to be impunity just as people mocked Christ as he was being crucified. And what was Christ’s response? “Father forgive them the know not what they are doing”.

    And yes it used to be that tolerance meant treating “the other” with dignity, observing the golden rule of treating others the way that you would like to be treated. But in this brave new world tolerance in effect means adherence to a particular set of values whilst treating others who hols a different view with mocking at best, and downright derision and contempt at worse.

    There’s nothing new under the sun. And whilst the church to a greater or lesser degree is crying “foul” in the midst of this, it might be helpful to be cognisant of the reality that the church, say 30 years ago had what could be argued to be unprecedented power and privilege in society. So why is it that this has become diminished? Could it be that a not insignificant part of the problem has been what the church has done with this privilege?

    All I see with pharisaic preachers and secular mockers is two sides of the same coin. It might be helpful to remember that it is the religious people that wanted Jesus dead and that it was the secular authority that carried that out. So belonging to a particular tribe or “group” then or now does not immune anyone from responsibility for either being part of the problem or part of the solution.

  3. “It takes an open mind to read past the headline.” Is that a belief? In which case how does the SMH intend to ‘evolve’ it?
    “It takes an open mind to read past the headline.” Using one of their own headlines, could the SMH give us an example of how that works?

  4. Many atheists delude themselves into thinking they are open-minded because they used to be Christians and then changed their minds. It has been an oft-observed fact that a closed-minded, ignorant Christian typically changes very little when he becomes a closed-minded, ignorant atheist.

  5. Many EU types delude themselves into imagining that they invented football :

    Here’s the real story :

  6. I find the tone of the SMH’s ‘minds wide open’ campaign really concerning. To me it reads like ‘we’ve moved on reporting facts so as to fight injustice’ – which means no longer being a news service but a moral (propaganda) one.

    Surprisingly that’s not how they see it – so I’m not sure if they’re self-deluded or I’m over-reading it:
    https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/06/18/australia-s-increasingly-polarized-media-landscape-smh-fights-stay-the-middle

    As an aside, this recent podcast w a former NY Times journalist on woke developments in American journalism is fascinating listening!
    https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-jordan-b-peterson-podcast/id1184022695?i=1000525165497

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