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Why we must not tolerate intolerance

Explain to your conservative friends that we are very accepting of their religion as long as it doesn’t impose its rules on the rest of us. Fostering religious intolerance is untenable in a secular society; America shows us the harms.

The Essendon Football Club chaotic appointment of a new CEO has stimulated a tantrum over martyrdom on the Right. As the Australian Financial Review’s Joe Aston pointed out, President Dave Barham’s attempt at due diligence over Andrew Thorburn’s appointment was appalling. Not only is Thorburn a “disgraced former ASX 10 company CEO” (his italics), but a man who appears to have used his management of the club CEO selection process to advantage his own candidacy.

The “rotten culture” that “flowed from the top” at the NAB is surely not the culture that Essendon wishes to import after its own scandals. Barham is, perhaps, the man who more urgently needs to leave the club.

As for Thorburn’s “fire and brimstone side hustle,” it is a matter of great frustration. The “conservative” punditry do not need any excuse to work themselves into a frothing frenzy. Given Essendon’s mission statement about its own inclusive nature as an organisation, it is surprising that the club would contemplate appointing anyone reflecting a conservative religious outlook to the position. The fact that they were willing to continue the contract with Thorburn as a member of the controversial church, just not as its chairman, suggests a greater openness to faith commitments than the enflamed commentators would like to admit.

Accepting Pentecostal figures (even ones under the umbrella of the Anglican Church) in leadership positions in our nation is something we need to understand. These tend not to be regular churchgoers who practise a private faith. Pentecostal churches have a mission not compatible with secular society, and their agenda is the control (and purification) of all branches (or mountains) of the secular world.

Pentecostal churches have mostly embraced the Millennial ideology. This belief states that Christ is due to return to rule for a millennium’s rule. The only obstruction is the sinfulness of the world. Every choice nonbelievers make must be constrained to suit their stringent interpretation of Christian morals. Every climate catastrophe is merely proof that End Times are here and they need to impose their morality upon us even more urgently.

According to Pentecostal beliefs women ought to be in the home, breeding. Control of our own bodies or failure to be submissive to men, is abhorrent. There is no scope for LGBTQI people in this world. Any action or speech in support of equal existence for Queer people is sinful, even demonic.

In America, more politicians (or aspirants) are seeking to impose total bans on abortion, and even on contraception. More preachers are expressing the idea that LGBTQI people should not just be erased from public life but killed. The Supreme Court is working to assist these worldviews, and Republican politicians campaign on them.

If we are describing Thorburn’s decision to step down as being “cancelled,” it is much less obnoxious than the cancelling of women’s and LGBTQI equality. Furthermore, Pentecostalism is totally intolerant of the validity of other faiths. Only their own (often unhinged) beliefs are valid and moral. It is also, in its Western versions, entwined with White Supremacy. There is no tolerance in Pentecostal teachings for other cultures, with First Nations’ cultures taught to be demonic.

This is not to say that Andrew Thorburn himself holds to any of these views. Anglican Pentecostalism may be somewhat more moderate. The point stands, however, that Pentecostal leaders in the civic space are a new phenomenon in Australia and we need to understand what we take on when we accept their cry that we may not be “intolerant” of their beliefs.

We need to read Australian journalist Elle Hardy’s investigation into the Pentecostal movement, Beyond Belief. She illustrates the scope of the international threat posed by the fashion: not only are 25 to 30% of Christians around the world now Pentecostal, but it is growing fast. They are businesses – or grifts – as much as religious movements, promoting oppressive social beliefs and allied with many of the authoritarian regimes ascendant.

Pentecostalism is metastasising, and as with Thorburn’s church, is invading the traditional churches. Rural Catholics are being brought to Hillsong’s covert Alpha groups by their parish priest. In Nigeria, even some Mosques are adopting Pentecostal strategies. This lively, energetic form of worship is far more attractive than the pew-snoozing religion with which many Australians were raised.

The speed of the Pentecostal movement’s growth means we need to be informed. Scott Morrison’s intrusions of religion into parliament have raised the discussion, despite traditional journalists lagging behind the urgent need. We can no longer say that “a man’s faith is his own business” when that faith demands the imposition of intolerant rules on the secular majority.

While the Right bemoans that the majority is cancelling their Christianity, we must counter that argument. It is not a faith that gives you spiritual comfort and guidance that the majority questions. It is a faith that denies the rest of us our well-being that we cannot accept.

America is showing us that a liberal democracy can move quickly towards becoming an authoritarian theocracy when outlier ideas come to dominate “conservative” politics. The USA has granted Australia the time to see what the movement does to civil society, and to decide whether irritating the Right by being “intolerant” of intolerance is necessary.

 

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16 comments

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  1. Lucy Hamilton

    You can see how little I care about the sport by the initial name typo. Apologies all.

  2. Cathy

    Well thought out article Lucy, except for the title; we must be intolerant of intolerance?
    Why should I be in harmony with intolerance? Can I run my own race?

  3. Lucy Hamilton

    Hi Cathy. Not quite sure whether you are disagreeing or agreeing with my point? I said we must not tolerate it. Is that what you mean?

  4. Neil Hogan

    Good article Lucy Hamilton.

    As for Andrew Thorton, after resigning as Essendon CEO claimed “Personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square.”

    It had nothing to do with his faith, it had every thing to do with his position on the board of the City on the Hill Church which holds homophobic views towards the LGBTIQ+ Community and hates on people who support a woman’s right to choose.

    Those views are incompatible with the AFL and the Essendon Football Club which openly value diversity, inclusion and provide a platform to promote equality.

    So his choice was not between his faith or the Essendon Football Club, it was between his position on the church board or the Essendon board and his faith helped him to chose the church board so he should stop claiming to be the victim of his own choice.

    Disclosure: I am a long term member of the Essendon Football club and have to admit I was surprised at his appointment in the first place after he was so soundly flayed by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry that he was forced to resign immediately upon the release of its final report.

    It caused commissioner Kenneth Hayne some umbrage that “Mr Thorburn sought to assert that no one knew this was happening. The money just kept ‘falling into NAB’s pocket’… He sought to portray the charging of fees for no service as a product of poor systems and carelessness. It was, in his words, ‘just professional negligence’… I cannot and do not accept this.”

    I think the Essendon President needs to consider his own position and the Essendon board really needs to have a good hard look at their lack of due diligence in making important decisions for the club.

  5. TwainandHume

    Well put … fears of the increase in this American-style fevered religion in Australia have troubled me for quite some time. Highlights just how vitally important the November 2022 mid-term elections in the U.S. as what becomes a current in the U.S. almost inevitably starts to impact in Australia as the Australian “right” acts as echos due to Murdoch and extreme religious influences.

  6. Terence Mills

    Thorburn was intending to be Essendon CEO and remain as chairman of City on a Hill, a Christian church organisation.

    Inevitably as CEO he would put his stamp on the football club and his values would be fundamental to his tenure as CEO.

    As the football club does not hold discriminatory views on LGBTQI + issues and as it recognises a womans’ choice to seek an abortion and as both of these are abhorrent to his Church, his position was untenable from the outset.

    It’s not as though he was going to be working in the accounts department at Essendon, he was to become their public face and inevitably his passions and beliefs would influence how he did the job.

    There is nothing here that implies religious discrimination : he was just the wrong man for the job.

  7. Kerri

    On the contrary I believe we should not tolerate religion of any sort and put it in it’s proper place in a progressive, truthful, scientific nation as a “lifestyle choice”.
    Far more a “lifestyle choice” than homelessness or LGBTIQ.
    For too many years religious faith has been allowed to dominate politics and society.
    For even more years religious faith has been allowed to dictate and even rule.
    Religion is a hobby. Like model trains or knitting.
    It is something you do when you aren’t doing the things you need to do to survive, like working, eating, sleeping.
    Simple as that.

  8. B Sullivan

    Religion is not a freedom. A religious person is bound by faith. If you are not bound by that faith, then you do not have the right to claim that you are religious. Faith is the certainty that you do not know that something is so, yet you choose to believe that it is so. Faith, also known as confidence, is a euphemism for prejudiced ignorance, famously described as a leap in the dark. Religious people cling to these bonds even as reality breaks them apart to avoid facing up to the responsibility of acting upon their own will.

    So, the bonds of faith are what prevents religious people from acting with the freedom of conscience, i.e. what they know instead of what they believe. They are restricted in what they can do and are obliged to do other things. Depending upon the regime of the religion they are not free to eat whatever they like, when they like, nor even to treat other people as equals. They can’t do this and they must do that. It is not their fault if they treat a fellow human being with disrespect, it is because their religion demands it of them. They are not free agents they are prisoners. What we call freedom of religion is just the freedom to choose your own prison.

    When it is faith that is intolerant, we should be questioning why we tolerate the pervasive hold that faith is permitted to wield over our society. What is the tolerance of these bonds of faith? What does it take to break them? The old answer that the truth will set you free doesn’t appear to be true. Faith is obliged to reject the truth in order to preserve the faith. Willful blindness refuses to see the truth. The compulsion to believe as a substitute for knowing is folly at best, more likely to be detrimental and potentially disastrous. It is always better to recognise what we don’t know and act accordingly than pretend we do know.

  9. Carol Simon

    Im somewhat puzzled by your use of the term Anglican Pentacostalism and to Pentacostal churches under the Anglican banner.
    I speak as an Anglican albeit a very irregular worshipper.

    The Anglican Church has long held a fundamentalist wing and I can even recall the heady influences of the charismatic movement in Canberra Anglican churches in the 1980s.

    The Pentacostal Churches seem to me to be a breed apart .
    Given your attention to detail I just ask for some elucidation on a relatively minor matter.

  10. Andrew James Smith

    Good article. My concern is not ‘conservatives’ who follow mainstream religions but this US born ‘radical right’ movement hitching its wagon to Evangelicals including Pentecostals as a (global or transnational) political strategy, and vice versa.

    Lucy is aware, that Paul Weyrich of Heritage Foundation (now known by US taxonomy as ‘Koch Network’ with ‘visitors’ inc. Tony Abbott & Liz Truss) allegedly stated that his role was ‘to litter the world with right wing think tanks’* and at the same time coopt Jerry Falwell to start the ‘Moral Majority’, plus also build a bridge to Central European emigres etc. round abortion, free speech etc.; previously it had not been a contentious issue but he saw an opportunity to develop a new ‘conservative’ voter cohort (include using a Hungarian Nazi emigre, Laszlo Pasztor for ‘ethnic outreach’).

    While many ‘Christians’ and/or ‘conservatives’ demand rights and freedoms (from or for what?) they also have protagonists contradicting their claims e.g. former LNP AG Brandis demanding, under the guise of freedom of speech’ the right to denigrate and hurt others; having a bob each way?

    More disturbing, but taken only at face value by media, has been the platforming of Jerusalem (& Netanyahu?) by Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Fox and the GOP e.g. moving Embassies to Jerusalem, why? In preparation for the ‘rapture’….. bonkers but taken seriously or at least respected as legitimate beliefs?

    *Nowadays astroturfing of multiple media outlets leading to the same outcomes; developing ‘conservative’ voter cohorts.

  11. TwainandHume

    B. Sullivan: Right you are. Well put.

  12. Chris Davis

    Good commentary on the creeping dangers of a creepy event. Some years ago I scanned a scientific article/paper by neuropsychologists and various behavioural scientists and statisticians etc. Following international research on brain function / behaviour over a massive cohort, they concluded that statistically about 60% of the population required to be adherent to a structured faith to feel secure.

    Wow, I thought. So much for secular education and ‘enlightenment’. Language, it appears, even in times of relative peace and wellbeing, remains weaponised as a power-tool of choice against the arc of nature to escalate fear and engender exclusionary and annihilative ideologies. Will the article itself be weaponised as evidence of a mandate for a righteous approach? Will such collective hegemony of bad thinking guarantee the rejection of the epistemological voice? It seems increasingly so.

    Since (ironically) 1984, when Ronald Reagan in a desperate bid to ring-fence more votes, co-opted and ratified the voice of the fringe evangelicals, the neo-religious faith and culture wars have become inextricably embedded in politics and commerce. In its needs-must pursuit, usually covert, sometimes brazen, but at all times using fear and linguistic contortions. All to the extent that now, like a global wrecking ball, the self-righteous and exclusionary quest for global domination under the auspice of capitalism appears to have injected such polemics into the common convenient rule-book of democracy.

    Indeed, via the modern unchecked greed of commerce and craven nature of politics, this burgeoning pandemic of bad thinking is demonstrably annihilating the beauty of growth through diversity and accelerating the breakdown of common wealth, environment, society and culture. Indeed, rather than being “fair-mindedly” indulged, it should not be tolerated.

  13. Kiki Kookaburra

    Article shared and comments enjoyed.
    As one who’s personal and professional life has been overcooked by the divisive hate mongering of evangelical fundamentalism, and survived, the tale writ here rings true.
    I have even got to the point of wondering if the deliberately sidetracked mainstream media narrative of ‘ freedom of religion versus gay rights’ is a popular form of rights porn for waning patriarchal libidos. One that even left/ progressive cis straight folks can get off on. But it’s a total distraction from the problem of theocracy versus democracy. And from capitalism’s unresolved dillemas of ethics ie good faith versus bad faith and good will versus bad will and infotainment versus informative discourse.
    Education about the problem itself is perhaps all that can prevent Australia becoming Godmericanised in this.

  14. Steve Flora

    “Godmericanised” …. now that is a doozy of a new word to remember. Accurate though, very accurate.

  15. Douglas Pritchard

    This morning we are midway in a course studying the history of Russia (with the obvious conclusion), from someone highly qualified to do so. In the late 1700`s the French “Government” was determined by the Roman Catholic church who had the game pretty much to themselves until the people got a bit upperty and decided that “Heads will Roll”. The french represented progressive thought in Europe at that time.
    The peasants revolted.
    I mean we have moved forward as they say by 300 years, and we are a whole lot smarter these days.
    Or, Have we learned anything at all?

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