the death of Christian Britain

Death of Christian BritainI read Callum Brown’s The Death of Christian Britain this week. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything particularly interesting – I was reading it for study, not for fun. You know the story: the Enlightenment, Darwin, the world wars, the end of Empire, the 1960s. After all that British Christianity dies a death of many cuts.

He got my attention when he argued that this story, the one I expected, is pretty much an invention of the 1950s and 1960s and that Britain actually went secular around the very same time as these stories were being spun.

How British Christianity got to the state it is in the year 2000 is currently understood almost universally in terms of the theory of long-term secularisation which was developed academically initially by sociologists, but since the 1950s has been adopted in whole or in part almost universally by historians. The theory of secularisation posits that relgion is naturally ‘at home’ in pre-industrial and rural environments and that it declines in industrial and urban environments. The rise of modernity from the eighteenth century… destroyed both the community foundations of the church and the psychological foundations of a universal religious world-view. Secularisation, it is traditionally argued, was the handmaiden of modernisation, pluralisation, urbanisation and Enlightenment rationality… For most investigative scholars of social history and sociology, British industrial society was already ‘secular’ before it had hardly begun.

In the 1950s and 1960s…British people re-imagined themselves in ways no longer Christian – a ‘moral turn’ which abruptly undermined vritually all of the protocols of moral identity. Ironcially , it was at this very moment that social science reached the height of its influence in church affairs and in academe. Secularisation theory became the universally accepted way of understanding the decline of religion as something of the past – of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The 1960s viewed itself as the end of secularisation. But by listening to the people themselves, this book suggests that it was actually the beginning.

Brown reaches this conclusion because his approach is different to the social scientists’. Instead of counting things – bums on seats, Sunday School enrolments, confirmations, ordinations (he claims this is a shallow Enlightenment way of understanding religion) – he looks to what people were saying and thinking, how people framed themselves and their society in Christian terms. He finds that Britain was Christian until the 1960s

What changed?

This was the other surprise. He says women.

Women were the bulwark to popular support for organised Christianity between 1800 and 1960s, and it was they who broke their relationship to Christian piety in the 1960s and thereby caused secularisation.

Brown takes us back to the nineteenth century and traces discourses of  evangelical femininity and piety.

One of the great mythic transformations of the early nineteenth century was the feminisation of angels. Until the 1790s, British art and prose portrayed the angel as masculine, or at most, bisexual – characteristically muscular, strong and even displaying male genitalia, and a free divine spirit inhabiting the chasms of sky and space. But by the early Victorian period, angels were virtuously feminine in form and increasingly shown in domestic confinement, were no longer free to fly. Women had become divine, but an angel now confined to the house.

17th Century Angel

17th Century Angels

19th Century Angel

19th Century Angels

In the Middle ages and early moden period, the way for women to model Christian virtue was to act ‘masculine’. ‘Icons of female piety, such as martyrs and ascetics, had been represented as ‘masculine,’ while femininity, menstruation and childbirth were regarded as dangerous and polluting to piety’. Women were considered prone to superstition. From the 1500s, he explains, ‘a wife’s feminity was a threat to piety and household, and a husband established his moral status by controlling her’.

But around 1800, as the re-imagining of angels reflects, religion became a feminine attribute and masculinity the antithesis of religiosity. Women, now, were to control the immoral ‘masculine’ tendencies of men. Women were the cornerstone of the evangelical scheme for moral revolution – their moral and domestic qualities would sanctify the home  and thus the nation as a whole. He does, of course, address ‘muscular Christianity’ as an ‘attempt to redefine manhood’, concluding that it never managed to change the dominant negative discourse on male religiosity.

Whereas in the nineteenth century, pious women were believed to have a positive moral and converting influence on men through providing a happy home, by the twentieth the happy home became the ends in itself.

The artefacts of male temptation – drink, betting and pre-marital sex – were no longer the problem: it was the discontented rather than immoral manhood which the woman had to combat in the home, and to do this she had to make the home an unremittingly happy place…

Women were no longer being required by discourse to challenge men into submission to a pious domesticity, but to provide a contented domesticity for them.

Femininity, your identity as a woman, was so tied to Christianity and morality that, though men had been gradually leaving churches and Christianity for a while, this was not really an option for women.

From early in the twentieth century, there is plenty of evidence…of men disavowing churchgoing, and even rejecting Christianity. But for women, this type of personal journey away from religion was extremely difficult and comparatively rare before the 1950s. It was difficulty because a woman could not just ‘drop’ religion as a man could; her respectability as a woman, wife and mother, wether she liked it or not, was founded on religion whether she went to church or not.

Women were pious and piety was feminine. British Christianity itself rested on a domestic ‘Christian’ womanhood.

the 1960s

You can see where this is going. Everything changed in the 1960s.

The 1960s was a key decade in ending ‘the Enlightenment project’ and modernity. In its place, the era of postmodernity started to mature. Structural ‘realities’ of social class eroded, and there was a repudiation of self-evident ‘truths’ (concerning the role of women, the veracity of Christianity, the structure of social and moral authority)…

Just as environmentalism and the anti-nuclear movement started to challenge science in the sixties, so post-structuralism and feminism would come within a decade or so to challenge social science.

But the immediate victim was Christianity, challenged most influentially by second-wave feminism and the recrafting of femininity.

We know what happened. Women find new ways of being women – strong and invincible.  Women started finding their identity in work, rather than home. They secularised their identity. Women pointed out the double standards, the freedom men enjoyed and the restrictions they endured. Women stopped going to church. They had had enough.

The keys to understanding secularisation in Britain are the simultaneous de-pietisation of femininity and the de-feminisation of piety from the 1960s.

Before 1800, Christian peity had been a ‘he’. From 1800 to 1960, it had been a ‘she’. After 1960 it became nothing in gendered terms. More than this, the eradication of gendered piety signalled the decentring of Christianity – its authority and its cultural significance.

Brown isn’t sure if this is what happened in Australia and New Zealand, but it seems likely. North America was a bit different, he argues. Over there, the discursive challenged has emerged but not triumphed – there is still a conflict underway.

concluding thoughts

I have never quite understood the evangelical reaction to second wave feminism, the complete disdain for a movement which, as I understand it, was mostly a good thing. Of all things to hate, why feminism? Why not consumerism or materialism or something else? Equal pay, equal rights, equal respect, equal opportunities and equal moral standards – justice – all seem perfectly compatible with Christian belief to me (I would even say they originate in Christianity). But, if feminism was the blow which took out Christian Britain (and Christian Australia?), then I understand the gut reaction to all things feminist and the zeal of the current complimentarian movement.

A better response to this experience, I believe, is not to try and turn back the tide and restore femininities and masculinities to what we imagine they once were (whether you find ‘Biblical’ gender roles in the 1950s, 1800s or 1730s). As we have seen, pinning certain virtues onto one gender or another is a dangerous path: it ends up excluding some and burdening others. Righteousness is neither masculine nor feminine, it’s for all Christians, women and men (as is submission, gentleness, patience etc. etc.).

Instead, we need to think about what might be other ideas and identities we have put our faith in and called ‘Christianity.’ The reconstruction of femininity in the 1960s, I believe, was a good thing. The problem was that Christians had allowed their faith to be so attached to a culture of moral, domestic, idolatrous femininity that when this was challenged and abandoned, Christianity no longer made sense. What beliefs or identities other than ‘follower of Jesus’ are we relying upon today that, were they to be challenged or swept away, would risk bringing Christianity down with them?

What do you think of Brown’s analysis? I’d love to hear what people who were actually there for the 60s think. What other identities or ideas do we risk pinning our faith on now?



The weeks go so quickly. Yes, it’s Friday again.

On punctuation

Mike Trapp 8 new and necessary punctuation marks we desperately need

Mockwotation marks

On religion vs science

It is a silly dichotomy. As we were reminded this week, you can have ‘science plus Jesus.’ John Dickson is back in the good books after his appearance on qanda (and I was in the audience!). He’s written some reflections here.

Science plus Jesus

And if anyone missed it, you can watch qanda here.

Max Tegmark Celebrating Darwin: Religion and science are closer than you think

On the Bible

Patrick Mitchel Musings on the Bible – Kevin Vanhoozer

On male as the norm

Gwen Sharp Male as the natural default (don’t get me started on the evangelical subculture with ‘women’s ministry’ and ‘ministry’, ‘women’s pastors’ and ‘pastors’, ‘deans of women’ and ‘deans of students’)

On human rights

The senate committee just released it’s report into the human rights bill. For those who are interested/nerdy/legal it’s here.

Tim Costello Human rights and world religions

On shame

Women use porn. Women masturbate. This shouldn’t be so hard for us to talk about – Hanna Masturbation, shame and Christian sexual ethics

On public confession and repentance

Wendy Gospel testimony amidst abuse in our own backyard

On disability

Stella Young Oscar Pistorius and an unfathomable crime

Pistorius was repeatedly held as a role model in media and civic discussion. We love “against the odds” stories; narratives like that of Helen Keller are lapped up by a culture hungry for “inspiration”.

Keller is known all over the world as the deafblind woman who overcame her disability to become a world-renowned speaker, activist and author. She’s often held up as a paragon of inspiration. Non-disabled people are in awe, disabled people are in her shadow. She is supposed to be our Against All Odds ideal. But Keller, as she is remembered, was just an ideal; an assortment of noble qualities.

On social justice

David Fitch The grace to do nothing: on social justice in the neighbourhood

On climate

The moonbat Climate denial is natural

On pop culture

Jonathan Fitzgerald Mumford & Sons, God and the new sincerity

On sloths

Because it’s Friday, here’s a bucket of sloths:



Finally the end of a big week for me. Hope you had a wonderful week.

On rest

This is just what I need! Tony Schwartz Relax! You’ll be more productive

Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

On drugs and sport

Tracey Holmes Outrage on steroids: our obsession with drugs in sport

It’s good to see someone else asked ‘what about Netball?’, ‘what about women’s sport’ when we were told that ‘all’ codes were implicated – Wendy Harmer Don’t bring us into disrepute too

On evangelicalism

This one reminded me that I whinge too much about evangelical culture. There are lots of things to be encouraged by. Jeff Dunn What evangelicalism gets right

On Paul and ‘clever speech’

Tim Gombis Paul on worldly and cruciform uses of rhetoric

On having it all

Are we really still asking that question? If men or women are having to chose between having a family and being ‘successful,’ then that’s something we should be working to fix.

Julia Baird Powerful women held up as examples of limitations

It would be a shame if the lesson we take from the varied lives of our most powerful women is that children and career is a dichotomy. Life is complicated and our loves, families, fertility, careers, timing and desires rarely match what we plan or hope.

On the food bowl

We’ve been through this before guys. North Australia as the food bowl for Asia? See Laura Eadie Food boom will be no mining boom

On the ‘ugliest woman in the world’

Charles Wilson Dignified ending for ugly story

Her own husband called her a “bear woman.” An 1854 advertisement in The New York Times said she was the “link between mankind and the ourang-outang.” She became known in the popular imagination during the mid-19th century as “the ugliest woman in the world.”

On Valentine’s day

I don’t really do Valentine’s day – you know, consumerism, pressure, leaving out single people, all that. So my husband got me chocolates on the 13th. He’s a good egg.

Jon Acuff Surviving church as a single

You’ve got a “don’t perpetuate the cat lady stereotype,” monologue locked and loaded at all times and have already stopped reading this post so you can put it in the comments section.

xkcd Valentine dilemma xkcd On V Day

Melanie Poole Stopping violence against women

On Lent

Matt Smethurst Lent is about Jesus: Free devotional guide

Tom Wright Lent for everyone reading plan

On gender and culture

Tamie Responding to being called a ‘lazy wife’

On church music

I’ve already  written on Christian music. This video just about sums it up – how to write a worship song in 5 minutes or less


in defence of generous orthodoxy

I like the attitude generous orthodoxy. That is, an approach to theology which values and strives for orthodoxy and truth, yet is generous towards people with whom you don’t quite see eye to eye. Generous orthodoxy holds fast to the Bible, yet is open to correction from fresh Biblical investigation. It assumes the best of others who interpret the Bible differently, because we all see through a glass darkly.

So Mark Thompson’s (the incoming principal of Moore College) recent post on ‘guarding the gospel’ made me anxious.

…there would always be those who wanted to claim the label ‘evangelical’ while actively working to undermine one or more of the basic convictions of historic ‘evangelicalism’.

You see, I am one of the people who identifies with evangelicals but who doesn’t hold all the convictions many evangelicals held in the past. Does he realise he’s pushing me outside the camp?

So who can claim to be evangelical?

I always thought that to be evangelical was to be ‘gospelly’ (‘gospel-centred’ as the current jargon goes). Evangelicals have been defined by the four values – biblicism, crucicentricism, activism and conversionism – that is, evangelicals are ‘Bible people’, they believe Jesus’ cross is the key, they get stuff done and they evangelise.

But now, according to Thompson, evangelicals are those who uphold ‘basic historic convictions’. He has redefined evangelicals: they are no longer ‘Gospel people’ but people who adhere to certain traditions and doctrines from centuries past. Thompson’s evangelicalism is no longer an approach or set of values but orthodoxy handed down.

This worries me. Even more concerning, our ‘evangelical heritage’, to him, is interchangeable with the gospel itself!

…This is what explains the regular call for vigilance among Christian leaders in the New Testament. It is a vigilance Marcus Loane understood to be part of our responsibility as heirs of such a magnificent evangelical heritage here in Sydney. Some may seek to caricature this determination to guard the gospel in a variety of ways…

This is why he is sceptical of ‘generous orthodoxy.’ He writes as if we got it pretty much all worked out (admittedly not perfectly, perhaps we’re just ironing out a few things), sometime in the past, and we need simply to guard our theology against ‘drifting’.

If the evangelical heritage were gospel, as Thompson implies, then generous orthodoxy would be dangerous. There would be no need for generosity because our theology would not need improvement.

But our evangelical doctrinal heritage is not the gospel! Generous orthodoxy is an approach that acknowledges that any theology is our human interpretation of God’s Word, not God’s Word itself. None of us can say we have completed the task of theology. We need, therefore, to be patient and generous with each other as we weigh up the strengths of various theological ideas.

Generous orthodoxy does not mean relativism. The orthodoxy bit of generous orthodoxy acknowledges that some theology is better than others. So we so we can strive for orthodoxy with a spirit of generosity towards others who have different interpretations. Yes, I appreciate the need to guard the deposit (and I am not saying we should be quick to discard theologies which have served us well), but sometimes guarding the gospel can be done through correcting our misconceptions, through refining our theology.

Whereas Thompson casts suspicion on those who ‘call for more nuance’ or ‘room for disagreement’ I believe this is precisely what we need if we are to develop richer theologies, if we are to better understand God’s Word and ultimately if we are to guard the Gospel. It is a healthy attitude of academic humility which is willing to learn from others, even from people with whom we disagree. Generosity means assuming the best of Christians with whom we disagree – rather than assuming the worst (and I am not accusing Thompson of this). Assuming the worst all too often devolves into witch-hunts, name calling,  guilt by association and dropping the L word (calling someone a liberal is like bringing nazis into an argument: as soon as you do it, it’s clear you don’t have an argument).

It would be a tragedy if people with the insights we need to learn, the rebukes we must heed, the corrections that could aid the church were silenced by fears of being pushed outside the evangelical camp. I hope we can be generous towards people who might have uncomfortable, but necessary things to tells us.

(see Reformed and always Reforming for more on this)

my first lent

Lent begins tomorrow. I’ve never done anything for Lent before. My churches have never observed it. Actually, I thought it might have a whiff of legalism and ritualism to it.

But seeing as it’s been practiced by Christians for centuries (our first record of Lent goes back to Irenaeus, who died in AD 203 – see a short history of lent), I now suspect there might be something to it. I suspect it might be a season of reflection and growth for many people.

So this year I’m giving it a go.

Simplifying_the_SoulI planning on working through a book I heard about from Anna Blanch’s blog, ‘Simplifying the Soul‘, by Paula Huston.Huston is Catholic, so the approach is a bit different to what I’m used to (thought, the more I learn of Catholicism from Catholics themselves, the more I respect it). The tagline is ‘Lenten practices to renew your soul.’ I struggle to pray. I struggle with doubt and disillusion. Renewal. This sounded like the book for me.

Each day  has a suggested practice, along with a verse and meditation  to guide your thoughts and prayers through lent. The weeks are themed – money, the body, the mind, the schedule, relationships and prayer – with Sundays off because they’re days of celebration. Over the next month I’ll have a go at:

  • clearing out a drawer of junk
  • praying on my knees
  • wearing my oldest clothes for a day
  • covering all the mirrors in my house
  • visiting someone in hospital
  • giving to charity
  • walking instead of driving
  • turning off my mobile
  • spending an hour in solitude
  • sitting in silence with a friend
  • praying for strangers I see

The aim is not to get holy points with someone: not you; not God; not even myself. Huston explicitly warns against that kind of approach.

This book is not meant to be a spiritual version of the Girl Scout honour badge programme, and if you look upon it as a handbook for self improvement, you’ll more than likely become frustrated and disappointed.

It can’t be like earning Brownie badges because the point, she says, is to learn humility.

I’m doing this because I believe there’s a difference between storing information in your head, feeling something in your body and knowing it in your heart. I hope, by giving my body a chance to feel things as I work through these practices, that God will be teaching me a bit more humility, a bit more patience, a bit more compassion, or maybe a bit of something else I can’t even predict. I hope I’ll slow down a little and notice the ways God has been good to me in the small and the big things.

Are you doing anything in preparation for Easter this year? What have you done in the past? Will you join me?


Friday again. My condolences to Essendon supporters – it’s been a tough week for you. Good news though, it looks like the Banned Drinkers Register might come back in the NT (see bloody good drinkers). I’ve had a good week.

On women giving sermons

Just go to John Dickson’s facebook page for all the latest. I can’t keep up.

On Catholicism

George Weigel Evangelical Catholicism for christophobic times

On indigenous incarceration

Gino Vumbaca No hard sell needed to rehabilitate, not lock up, indigenous offenders

On asylum seekers & persecuted Christians

If we want to support the persecuted church, welcoming our asylum seekers would be a good place to start. New Matilda is doing a series of stories from women asylum seekers detained on Manus Island. Many of the women say they became refugees because they converted to Christianity.

I am a 26-year-old woman. I have left my country because of thousands of different problems in the society which I used to live in and also due to the lies and lack of security, safety, and freedom of expression and justice. My uncle was killed by order from the government and that created many problems for my family…

I wasn’t even able to announce my Christianity in public because changing my beliefs from Islam to Christianity in my country is a serious offence. I could be sentenced to hanging for that reason. There was a world of psychological and emotional pressure on me as the government would consider us infidels. I only shared my conversion to Christianity with some of my university friends and that caused me a lot of troubles and I had to defer my university career even though I hadn’t finished it yet because I would be persecuted otherwise…

On gay marriage

I don’t agree with everything they said, but at least they’re thoughtful – Roger Scruton & Philip Blond Marriage equality or destruction of difference?

On Allain de botton and Douglas Adams

Nathan Campbell Total perspective: De Bottom, Douglas Adams and God

We don’t get in the box and perceive the universe, the God who created the universe perceives us.

On misremembering

Matthew Rindage Stop celebrating Martin Luther King Jr

On evil octopuses through the ages

You must check out all these octopus maps – every conflict seems to have one, every major power gets their turn at being represented by an evil octopus. Donna Seger Teaching with tentacles – she’s contemplating teaching a whole semester of world history through octopus maps.

Octopus Map

On disability

Heidi Rome Sparks of light that keep hope alive, from a Jewish perspective.

My son, Ethan, is 7 years old. He is a brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. He also has autism. I’d like to share with you a bit about our experience and what it’s been like to live with a child with autism.

First, I had to wrap my head around the fact that Ethan had a condition that wasn’t just going to go away and that would need comprehensive, intensive, long-term care. I never expected to have a child with special needs. That was something that happened to “other people.” I had always considered myself as a strong someone doing the magnanimous giving; certainly not a someone doing the weak, frightened, overwhelmed, isolated receiving.

Donna McDonald on the National Disability Insurance Scheme –  NDIS for under 65s: ageism or a battle over priorities?

On Richard III

It’s been a good week for Richard. You can now follow him on twitter (@HMRichardIII). Here’s Peter Sellers doing the Beatles in the style of  Laurence Olivier’s Richard III.


we need to talk about the old testament

I’m often not sure what to make of the Old Testament. More than often, most of the time.

It often upsets me. It offends me. Not in the evangelical ‘the Bible is offensive because it tells me that I’m sinful’ way. No. It offends me when it appears not only to condone, but to promote actions and attitudes which are not simply a ‘softer’ version of Jesus’ teaching but actually in direct opposition to Jesus’ teaching. The racism, the violence, the tribalism, the sexism. There are parts I love – the imagery, the poetry, the drama. But so much of the Old Testament worries me so much so that I hardly read it anymore.

I just don’t know how to read it. I don’t have the tools. I don’t have a framework.

Let me explain where I’m coming from.

I’m doing a PhD in history. I spend all day every day reading historical sources, not only for the information they immediately convey, but reading them ‘against the grain.’ That is, interrogating the source for the information that the author didn’t necessarily intend to share. I hunt for the author’s biases, assumptions, motivations and blind-spots. Especially, I think about the ways in which she might by trying to manipulate her readers (everyone writes with an agenda – myself included). That is how I spend my week.

Then, after work, I come to reading the Old Testament, and can’t quite take my historian cap off. I’m not even sure I should take it off: these are historical documents after all.

Suddenly the Old Testament reads like very human literature. I find documents that appear to serve the ruling elite, the priests, the nobility, the Yahweh cult. My beloved Psalms read like nationalist propaganda. I used to be concerned by the genocides in Joshua, now I’m not even sure they really happened (but I can see how the stories would be great for legitimising land claims and tribal boundaries). Likewise, Judges would serve very well for asserting the interests of the ruling family (just look how bad it was when there was no king). I my instinct is to deconstruct the text.

Having talked to others (especially those trained in social sciences and humanities), I am not alone in being unable to shake my suspicion of texts. Moreover, I think with generational change, it will become increasingly common for people to be thinking this way – to intuitively read the text against the grain.

Putting issues of motive and bias aside, there are still questions about historicity. What actually happened? You only have to go to Wikipedia on the Old Testament to learn that the Torah was written down after the Exile (by people whose political and religious interests it secured). That is, it was recorded centuries after the events described. A few more google searches point out how similar Genesis is to earlier foreign literature; how there may be multiple authors for a number of books; how there are internal contradictions etc. etc.

My real question is what does all this mean for divine inspiration?

The authors are human. But In what sense are we dealing with human documents? The authors are shaped by their context, we all acknowledge that. But does ‘context’ also mean that their writings reflect their sinful biases, ambitions, prejudices and presuppositions? Did these parts of their lives make it in? Or did God edit those bits out? (things which can’t be answered by appeals to progressive revelation) Does acknowledging ‘context’ mean accepting that authors may have held different understandings of what constitutes an historical fact? Should we accept all parts of the Old Testament equally (including the offensive bits), or assess them in light of the overall thrust of the Bible, particularly Jesus’ teaching? Am I even allowed to question a Biblical author?

We need to talk about this, not just at Bible colleges, but in our churches.

In years of attending evangelical churches I’ve never heard anything about historicity of the Old Testament (other than Jesus believed it so it’s good enough for me) or how to read it (other than ‘it’s all about Jesus’) in a way that acknowledges these criticisms. Perhaps pastors don’t feel qualified to train us on these issues. Perhaps they don’t want to scare us or confuse us. Perhaps it’s easier to pretend that the Bible fell from heaven. Whatever it is, I’m not sure why we’re not talking about these issues.

The problem is that while we’re not getting leadership and teaching on these issues from Christian leaders, Christians are going to come across it from other places. Most of my knowledge of debates surrounding the Old Testament originally came from atheists – atheists friends on facebook wanting to pick a fight. The thing is, we’ve all got internet. Christians in the pews are getting more and more exposure to critiques that previously just touched the academy. Moreover, as long as leaders aren’t willing to raise issues of source criticism, it will remain a taboo issue. A lonely question you can’t ask and a doubt that festers.

The Evolution of AdamFinally, I will just mention that Peter Enns is one evangelical who is willing to talk about this stuff with a popular audience. I don’t agree with everything he writes, but at least he’s opening a conversation. He is author of The Evolution of Adam and Inspiration and Incarnation (which argues that we must consider the Bible to be both human and divine) and blogs here.

How do you approach the Old Testament? Do you know people who are talking about these issues? Where would you go to discuss them?


Friday. Enjoy your weekend with the thought that we’ve got fewer days of Federal Election campaigning to go than we did last week.

On fashion history

William Kremner Why did men stop wearing high heals?

Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply.

Louis XIV painted in 1701 by Hyacinthe Rigaud (Getty Images)Louis XIV wearing his trademark heels in a 1701 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud

As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes – and the high heel was born.

On music

The hottest 100 confirmed that I really am too old to be among Triple J listeners (Thrift Shop? Really?) so it’s over to ABC Classic for me. Nonetheless, here’s a Guide to telling your indie folk bands apart.

On the Order of Australia

Ah, privileged white men again. Hardly reflective of the diverse achievements and service throughout the nation.

Monica Attard “My dear…Have no fear”

Anne Summers New criteria for Australia Day awards are in order. I’m convinced we need some better criteria. Unfortunately Summers doesn’t actually suggest any. Perhaps the council need to be a bit more proactive in searching out recipients – look among the firefighters, lifesavers, kids sports coaches, guide and scout leaders, rotarians, volunteers. What would you suggest as criteria?

On disability

Henry Lebovic Disability is bad for your bank balance

On thinking and listening more carefully 

This isn’t always evangelicals’ strong points, especially with regards to complex moral issues like colonialism.

Morgan Guyton Sex-trafficking, colonialism and miscommunication

On the human rights bill

Anna Brown Big picture lost in debate over anti-discrimination laws

On good books

It was another case of ‘the book the Koorong clientele rejected…’ I found Reformed and always Reforming in the bargain bin at Koorong for $2 and devoured it over the long weekend. I loved it. I even discovered a box to put myself in – ‘postconservative evangelical’ (and I thought I belonged nowhere). You must read it.

Reformed and always Reforming

My husband devoured The Australian Moment and says the same thing. Read it.

The Australian Moment

On Sydney in the 1920s

These incredible photos are from the Historic Houses trust. See Femme Fatales and Vintage Mugshots for more.

Leslie Rees was convicted of bigamy at the Moree Quarter Sessions and was sentenced to four months light labour. Women from regional centres were transferred to Sydney to serve their time. Age unknown.

Mary Rubina Brownlee, 4 April 1923

Convicted of unlawfully using an instrument to procure a miscarriage. Mary Brownlee was a backyard abortionist who was caught during an extensive police investigation. She was sentenced to 12 months light labour, but her male accomplice was acquitted. Aged 64.

Matilda Devine, 27 May 1925

Matilda ‘Tilly’ Devine used a razor to slash a man’s face in a barber’s shop and was sentenced to two years gaol. She was Sydney’s best-known brothel madam and her public quarrels with sly-grog queen Kate Leigh provided the media with an abundance of material. Aged 25.

Mildred Kruss, 16 December 1919

Mildred Kruss married her first husband in 1914. After the marriage broke down she neglected to go through the difficult and expensive divorce process. Upon marrying her second husband in 1918 she was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to six months with light labour. DOB: 1892

Nellie Cameron, 29 July 1930

Nellie Cameron was one of Sydney’s best-known, and most desired, prostitutes. Lillian Armfield, Australia’s first policewoman, said Cameron had an ‘assured poise that set her apart from all the other women of the Australian underworld’. Aged 21.

Phyllis Carmier, 1 April 1921

British-born Carmier was known as ‘Yankee’ Phyllis because of her peculiar accent. She stabbed her ‘bludger’, or pimp, to death during a violent altercation in Crazy Cottage, a sly-grog shop in Surry Hills. Carmier attracted much sympathy in the media, who labelled her crime a justifiable homicide. Aged 32.