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When you put it all together it, does sound a bit suspicious.

In the year 1986 and in the depth of a mid-life crisis I found myself embroiled in a decision that would change my life forever.

I joined a Pentecostal Church and stayed for 25 years. Years later when my logic concerning the place of women, the interpretation of scripture, social justice, homosexuality and many other aspects of society deviated from the so-called laws of the Bible and the church I decided to move on.

My beliefs were simply not compatible with the church. They were much to political. Maybe that’s a story for another day.

I can vividly recall the look of astonishment on one Pastors face when I told him I was a Socialist and another’s horrified look when I spoke in support of women in society and the church at a men’s breakfast.

Later I was told that the elders wouldn’t appreciate my views being broadcast in the church. I say this not to tell a story of my journey into Christianity and my eventual exit but rather to say that I speak with some knowledge on the subject of faith and its place in society.

The Government is intent on introducing legislation that in essence will help in:

  • Establishing religion as a protected attribute in a new Religious Discrimination Act, rendering discrimination on this basis unlawful;
  • Establishing a new statutory position of Freedom of Religion Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission;
  • Developing a Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill for introduction into Parliament as soon as practicable, implementing a range of amendments recommended by the Ruddock Review;
  • Supporting the Australian Human Rights Commission to increase community awareness of the importance of freedom of religion.

So, what is it the government wants to allow people of faith to say that it cannot say now? What is the connection, if any, between another attempt by the government to expand free speech rights and the decline in the Christian church.

As I said in a previous post, having had experience in both mainstream and Evangelical churches, I can tell you that the Uniting Church, for example, long ago cast away any vision of hell.

But the evangelical/ fundamentalist churches would have been celebrating Morrison’s election because Romans 13 says that it is God who elects our leaders. It is a literal truth.

Morrison may be a Christian but he is also a warrior for Christ and he and his fellow Pentecostals will be praying that ‘His will, will be done’.

I could never let go of my conscience.

Opinions seem to bounce from one side of the net to the other, clipping the net cord without ever conceding a point, or indeed missing the point that in Australia the Christian church is fighting for its very survival.

Indeed, most Christians wouldn’t be aware of it but the truth is that in Australia it is dying.

In his engaging and most thoughtful book Losing My Religion Bishop Tom Frame (he is the Priest that conducted the services after the Bali bombings) concludes that:

“Unless there is a turnaround in the fortunes of all community organizations by 2025 the Christian Church will be a marginal player in Australian life with only a few remaining remnants.

When the Christian affiliation of the population drops below 50 per cent, projected to happen around 2030, those identifying, as Christians will be found in four main clusters.

The Roman Catholic Church will continue to exercise sufficient discipline among its people to resist the mutating of popular culture.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic churches will flourish in the larger cities, form communities within communities and become more sect like.”

Mind you, in my experience, with the church I saw many sins committed. A senior pastor at the very first church I attended knowingly protected a teacher who was abusing his students lest it might damage the Church’s reputation. He appeared before the Royal Commission.

At another church, the Senior Pastor who was also a Financial Planner and a personal friend scooped $2 million from his clients.

These sorts of events are not uncommon. In many cases I was unable to give Pastors, because of my differing opinions, the respect they demanded from me.

Whereas mainstream churches exist fundamentally to serve the poor, Pentecostal churches are about saving souls for Christ. That is their mission.

Greg Sheridan in a piece for The Australian (paywalled) said this:

“Shortly after he became Prime Minister, Morrison attended the Melbourne Pentecostal church Planetshakers. It is a brilliant church, and one I know well. It uses social media as effectively as any religious movement in Australia. It live-streams big church services through its website. So Morrison was seen by the world praying at Planet shakers.”

His rather long defence of Morrison and the church is filled with naivety about fundamentalist doctrine. It is an external view rather than an internal one.

The Christian Church has been enormously damaged by the abuse of children scandal and by the success of the marriage equality legislation. And by the victory of those campaigning for gay rights generally.

In the mix, all of a sudden we have a rugby player causing a stir over his free speech right to say that homos will go to hell, even though he signed a contract to say he wouldn’t say such things.

I’m not in the least suggesting some sort of conspiracy theory here. Perhaps it is just circumstantial that we have a fundamentalist Prime Minister who has so many like-minded people in his Cabinet.

An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

I have no idea how all this comes together, maybe it doesn’t, but it does seem coincidental that it has all materialised at the one time. It is ironic however that the Folau case has shown the existence of some gigantic gaps in Australia’s protections for fundamental freedoms. And just as the government is about to introduce a new bill to increase protections for religious freedoms.

We will never truly understand the effect free speech has on an individual until we have suffered from the abuse of it.

I cannot recall the media being so actively engaged in a religious matter.

Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell laid into Folau when he decided to attract public funding for his cause saying sick children were more deserving of support.

But public funding he has attracted and I’d bet it is Christian money even though Folau is privately wealthy.

Mitchell posted on Twitter:

YOU are in a fight that YOU chose to be in after YOU broke the terms of YOUR contract, the kids below are in a fight they NEVER wanted to be in & yet YOU think YOU deserve donations more than they do??!!

The Guardian’s David Marr – insightful as ever – wrote:

Pity these Christians. They’re lashing out, angry and terrified. Miranda Devine is warning them via the pages of the Sydney Daily Telegraph Australia faces a revolution of “coercion and bloodshed” à la Mexico in the 1920s unless we rally to the cause of Christianity and Israel Folau.

But to Folau’s Christian backers this notion of freedoms we all share doesn’t make sense. Why? Because for them putting the boot into gays is basic Christianity. This is hard for the rest of us to credit in 21st century Australia, but to make sense of the current uproar it needs to be faced.

By now you should be getting the point that this is all about free speech or for some the right to abuse others in a way that might be called hate speech.

Personally, I cannot think of anything that I want to say that I’m prohibited from saying now.

It says something about the moral sickness in a supposedly enlightened society when the right to abuse each other, in the name of free speech, needs to be enshrined in law.

As Australia settles into the acceptance of secular values in marriage equality and it castes a wider net where sex and family is more genuinely welcomed, the Christian mission becomes more urgent.

People often demand free speech to compensate for the freedom of thought they rarely use.

Gillian Triggs writing for The Guardian says the Folau case is exclusively a matter of contract law: 1) Folau has the right to freedom of speech and religious expression; and 2) the law should protect against harmful homophobic abuse.

The right to manifest religion is subject to the rights of others and may not incite others to discrimination, hostility or violence. In short, the right of religious expression is not absolute and depends upon respect for the freedoms of others.

Whatever the case, be it Folau’s right to express his views on Christianity, the Prime Minister’s desire for a greater display of religion in our society or the government’s back door expansion of free speech one thing remains clear:

We are a secular society. Religion has historically and constitutionally has had a place in it. There it should remain.

My thought for the day

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told in any area of scholarship without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.


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  1. Terence Mills

    I was watching Sky-After-Dark – also known as SAD television – last night : it’s a bit like peeling back the tarpaulin on a worm farm but you live in hope that some nutrition will eventually trickle out.

    Bolt has adopted the position that the Left are saying that Folau must have his human rights curtailed, that he must be denied freedom of speech and freedom to practice his religion.

    That, of course is absolute bunkum as the thinking side of town have quite clearly identified Folau’s problem as being one between him, his employer and the terms of his employment and it is an important point and one on which we need the guidance of the courts.

    Watching Bolt it occurred to me that if he were to appear on Sky and start extolling the virtues of watching the ABC and with his guests – after a few whiskies – started a critique on the superficial and highly biased nature of SKY and its presenters it could well be that Rupert would have him sacked for not marching to the family drumbeat. Is this so very different from Izzy Falau’s situation ?

    Anyhow, after Bolt there was a light entertainment show called Sharri – I kid you not. A good time to switch to the tennis !

  2. Roscoe

    one thing you didn’t mention is that Folau is of the Pentacostal faith too which would add to suspicions of conspiracy

  3. whatever

    Scotty would prefer to have the staid and docile Exclusive Brethren supporting him, the Pentacostals are too loud and proud with their religiosity.
    The Exclusive Brethren were financial donors to the Howard-era LNP, they may still be here in large numbers but they are quiet, secretive folk. They are very big with the Anti-Gay/Green stuff.

  4. Northern Dragon

    A most interesting post. I have already communicated a bit with “Something To Ponder About,” so I was kind of prepared for the situation in Australia being… unusual and critical. But this is most interesting indeed!
    Fascinating situation… (if one can use such a term about a situation which is fraught with pain and personal cost for so many people.)

  5. Phil Pryor

    Much of our law seems to have been engendered by Roman imperium, as its content and “meaning” expanded. The right to enforce the law (whatever the Roman people and senate imagined or created,) became more and more the right to create law and regulation to enforce, and so, imperious ownership, control, dictatorship (of the more modern type) followed. People were robbed, slaughtered, abused, humiliated, degraded and controlled, all by law. And, the Roman church rarely faltered in adopting all this, especially the strength of adding so-called divine enforcement by right. Infallibility is a powerful tool of control. Superstitious peasant types, fully stripped of natural rights to land, water, air, movement, basics once but no more, were as enslaved as any have been, without rights unless those were generously allowed for reasons of social cohesion. Religion has abused every natural right and there have always been popes, prophets, hot gospellers and scoundrels of coercion, persuasion and acquisitiveness who have cowed the submissive folk. So, in today’s world, these liars, for that is what they are, keep claiming that they are superior representatives, agents, prophets, messengers, managers, of some impossibly ridiculous concept of a god. If they can get an arrival in court, witnessed, some DNA evidence, signatures, footprints, confessions, photos, all signed and guaranteed, I’ll listen (HAH). So many religious freaks demand attention as they pose as some great agent of a power elsewhere, so as to enforce law they have created or adopted or abused. Go to Mecca, Rome, Delhi, Beijing, Wall St., Canterbury, anywhere, anytime, and there is no such power backing laws of control. The one party and brethren dictatorships of Rome followed the old empire and republic, leading to Mussolini and his cockeyed written and spoken rubbish claiming authority of descent. The fascist and nazi dictators and bumboys were all romanist ratbags, evil and oppressive. In a modern world of independent informed thought and action, do not ever listen to self centred fools of the Bolt, Sheridan, Murdoch, Morrison, Joyce, Abbott types, greedy filth and grabbing goats of no intellectual value. Science, logic, decency and common sense demands at least that much. Be free of the burden, sickness, stupidity, of religious and conservative social superstition and tradition. It is regressive, wasting, suffocating, demanding and backward.

  6. Kyran

    “I cannot recall the media being so actively engaged in a religious matter.”
    I can, and it was the same obfuscation and misdirection then as it is now. The media have conflated issues in defence of their patrons without showing the slightest interest in the crux of the matter.
    In this instance, we are told some numb-nut has learnt a verse from the Corinthians and wishes to see it promoted as if, somehow, it had any bearing whatsoever in the 21st Century. He proudly declares he is intolerant of fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, the effeminate, etc, and his justification is a parable from a story book. In keeping with the fable, those he is intolerant of will burn in hell.
    At this point, any reasonable mind would be questioning the numb-nut’s intelligence. But this numb-nut is the poster boy for a new argument that is so illogical, so unreasoned, it neither withstands scrutiny or merits discussion.
    He no longer feels any compulsion to defend the inanity of his insanity. He now demands that we should be tolerant of his intolerance.
    This has become the discussion. The majority should be tolerant of a small and diminishing group of predominantly male numb-nuts who are intolerant of the majority.
    Back in March, there was an horrific act of violence in which a deranged lunatic went on a murderous shooting rampage, killing unarmed people wanting no more than to enjoy peaceful celebration of their worship. In my recollection, it was the first time a leader of a country openly declared she would show zero tolerance of intolerance. You may recall other world leaders and their media fan clubs were stymied. In the hours after this barbarous act, the usual tripe was started up about extremism; the disenfranchisement of the white, male shooter; who was he; what motivated him; the poor victims; all the usual tripe of a barbarous act being rationalised, normalised.
    Ms Ardern did what no leader had done before. She called a callous, gutless lunatic just that. She refused to say his name, she refused to give any oxygen whatsoever to his mindless lunacy. The media and other world leaders had no option but to accept her rationale because it was – inarguably – the correct approach. Why would you be tolerant of the intolerant? You may also recall Scummo’s recent ‘win’ at the G20 summit, where he did nothing more than steal Ms Ardern’s argument and promote it as a ‘cyber censorship’ on hate speech.
    Churches have been in decline for centuries and this decline has accelerated with the plethora of enquiries across the planet that have shown them as privileged, wealthy clearing houses, abusing not only their followers, but those in their care, custody or control. These institutions are attempting to associate their abuses with their religion, declaring an attack on their abuses is an attack on their religion.
    Conversely, people who identify as religious are pilloried as if their defence of their belief in their god is somehow a defence of an institution that is undoubtedly ungodly.
    If these institutions had the slightest sincerity or interest in promoting their genuine tenets of faith, they would not be advocating for a tiny sliver of human rights – the right to free speech – but be the champions of a movement for an Australian Charter of Human Rights. The argument will remain on the narrowest part of the narrowest argument, because the larger part of the argument is simply unpalatable for these narrow minded intolerant gits.
    If you wish to promote Human Rights, you would rightly promote the universality of Human Rights, not that some obscure irrelevant numb-nut should have extra rights.
    As for the last time the media became actively engaged in a religious matter, it was at the time of the nastiness that begat Ruddock’s ridiculous crusade, the postal vote on Human Rights – that nobody but the churches wanted. On that occasion they did what they are doing now. They wanted to make Human Rights a religious argument, not a human argument.
    For the past few decades, not one church has declared the universality of their commitment to any semblance of Human Rights. They have tried to focus the discussion on homosexuals, whilst ignoring the ‘big picture’. They have ignored that this is the 21st Century. There should be no tolerance of their intolerance. Not just homosexuals either. Imagine if they declared them pesky womenfolk equal? Imagine if they added up their trillions in ill-gotten gains and gave it to the poor and impoverished? Imagine if they became the voices for those that are persecuted in the name of religion?
    The UN is about to undertake an inspection of Australia’s detention facilities in keeping with the obligations of signing up to the OPCAT protocols. Will these religious crusaders for Human Rights be the champions of those incarcerated by a denial of the most fundamental Human Rights? Will they champion our First People, incarcerated on trivial charges because of their colour and hereditary? Will they champion women, increasingly incarcerated due to deprivations associated with their sex and resultant powerlessness? Will they champion children, now being incarcerated at the age of ten on ‘adult crimes’ pretexts? Will they champion refugees and asylum seekers, incarcerated for their temerity to remain alive after risking everything?
    No, not at all. Let’s discuss Human Rights in the most limited of ways. The right of a wealthy numb-nut to be an intolerant git. The Christian mission has not become more urgent, it has become more desperate.
    Here’s a radical thought to contemplate. How about our government, with the endorsement of every religious institution, immediately declares the acceptance and implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – no caveats, conditions, exemptions or qualifications.

    When you have finished reading it, read it again. The words ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ are not only rights, but they become obligations, insofar as you cannot demand these things without extending them to others.
    Our government has been on a crusade against the poor for a while now. Imagine if they accepted Article 25.
    “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
    (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”
    Thankfully, every day, there are examples of public awareness of intolerance that is simply not recognised by our ‘leaders’ – political or religious. Now that our government has committed to an agenda of cutting budgets and further depriving more Australian’s of basic Human Rights, you may have noted charities of all descriptions seeking increased support to accommodate the increasing demands placed on them. And every day, many people are giving what they can.
    This issue, like so many, are cast about our media and discussed in the most narrow of terms. Do you think it’s a coincidence that so many people simply don’t engage in these ridiculous discussions, while their reality is being ignored?
    Thank you Mr Lord and commenters. Apologies for the length of the rant, but the context is important. Take care

  7. Baby Jewels

    Good article. But…it took you 25 years?

  8. Jimmy

    Totally agree Phil Pryor.
    Spot on.

  9. John Lord

    Baby Jewels.

    Perhaps an explanation at another time.

  10. wam

    A simpleton mummy’s church boy until my dad came back from the war and broke from the indoctrination cycle by replacing it with commo ideals which lasted till joe was exposed. So, I became a socialist, like you, lord.
    .I should be embarrassed by the use of you surname as it is an offensive word to the christians here (like loonies offends the crow) but troll are nasty and I would not like to disappoint.
    My belief is that religious truths should be open and discussed. If a man, like folau, writes a public post he should be questioned on it. Will he be exposed in court by having to agree with the ridiculous parts of the bible?
    Will he be accused of telling god who to take into heaven. What about the bible believer who think bonking occurs in heaven? any fornicators???
    ps have you read your thought?? Do you think we grow up blindly embracing???? When did you stop? 25 years of pentacostalling??? Drivel lord

  11. Stephengb

    Thank you John Lord, timely article.

    Kiran- big thank you for a bloody good rant.

    “Here’s a radical thought to contemplate. How about our government, with the endorsement of every religious institution, immediately declares the acceptance and implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – no caveats, conditions, exemptions or qualifications.”

    Spot on the money.

  12. Florence Howarth

    John, what came first in the Pentecostal Church? Religion or politics?

  13. Florence Howarth

    I was surprised at the anger there is now against religion & the churches. I listen to ABC Local overnight. The announcer was even surprised at the response to her question about religion. Nearly all voice not disagreement but hate & anger.

    I am a lapsed RC with no interest in religion now. What does concern me is who is turning up at public schools to take the religion classes. As the numbers in established churches have declined, are the from the sects & prosperity churches?

    Does anybody supervise what they are teaching? Do parents question their kids? Is there any curriculum set by the state?

  14. Freethinker

    Excellent article John and I share your views.
    IMO, and I hope that I am wrong the Evangelist and Pentecostal movement is step by step to modifying our constitution especially section 116 to be able to be free to influence religion in our government desitions in a legal way.
    We will be in the same situation that in Brazil and in some African countries if we let them fulfill their agenda.
    They are “building” a formidable coalition between the Australian Christian Lobby and the Human Rights Law Alliance (HRLA) which is similar to the American “Alliance Defending Freedom.
    What John is your views about The Copenhagen Declaration (“Gods and Politics”)?

  15. Zathras

    All religions but especially Christianity have a persecution and martyrdom complex and members feel they have to constantly struggle against imaginary overwhelming odds to justify themselves, otherwise they aren’t doing what is expected of them. We see it ritually every Easter and Christmas with false allegations of “banning” each occasion.

    They may be surprised to realise that nobody cares about their beliefs until they infringe on the rights of others.

    For example if your religions says you can’t eat pork then fine, don’t do it. However if they say that they intend to stop others from eating pork it’s something else entirely.

    They are free to criticise others under the existing rules of free speech but if you return the favour they complain about persecution, like some sort of intolerant paranoia

  16. Phil

    Folau is a fruit cake, soon to be a very rich fruit cake. The End.

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