The Open Mind of the Sydney Morning Herald

14 June 2021

5.1 MINS

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.

[Image: BigStock]


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  1. John Launder 14 June 2021 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    I agree with nyour comments David. Am oldie (80) who has been interested and involved in politics and community since I was young man. I cannot comprehend the insaniuty of so much of today’s political and philosophical thinking, in fact I don’t see much thinking at all about the latter.

  2. Yvonne Walker 14 June 2021 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this frank and open-minded discourse on this issue. Please keep us updated on any reply you receive from SMH.

    • David Robertson 15 June 2021 at 8:00 am - Reply

      Thanks Yvonne….so far no reply from the SMH – however I note that in yesterdays paper they carried another anonymous piece attacking Sydney Anglicans in general and Philip Jensen and Moore College in particular. This shows just how ‘balanced’ and just how much ‘extreme deep inquiry’ they do!

  3. David Robertson 17 June 2021 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    The SMH have not responded to my offer – so I wrote the article anyway and published it here –

  4. Warwick Marsh 18 June 2021 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Absolutely brilliant but very sad article. I started reading the Sydney Morning Herald as a young boy/teenager in the late sixties. My dad read it, so I read it. It was a great paper and a bastion of truth at one stage. They have been getting more Godless on a progressive basis for the last 4 decades. I have refused to buy a copy now for over 20 years! It is a very personal tragedy for me!

    What is even more sad is that this once great newspaper was founded by two devout Christians who were Deacons in the Sydney Congregational church. (See below story)

    • Alison 30 June 2021 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Wow, I did NOT know that!

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