Category Archives: ACL

dear pastor prater…

If you missed Pastor Matt Prater’s spooky performance on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s response, you might just want to take a peek now.



Although applauded for his comments in support of marriage equality on the night, Prime Minister Rudd has been widely criticised since by Christian writers such as Sandy Grant at Matthias Media’s The Briefing for ‘grossly caricaturing’ and ‘misrepresenting the Holy Book of the faith he confesses’. I have to say, I think Grant has some right to gripe. It would be difficult to honestly argue that the New Testament, at least, actually advocates slavery although the Book in general does seem to look upon it with a decidedly friendly eye. Still, Mr Rudd should have perhaps stuck with the biblical prohibitions against eating prawns and wearing mixed cloth, the guidelines for selling your daughter to her rapist or some other more well-established scriptural values like those.

And even Prater fans would have to admit, I think, that the pastor also rather ‘grossly misrepresented’ the PM’s change of heart on marriage equality saying Mr Rudd (or ‘Kevin’ as Prater addressed him) seemed ‘to keep chopping and changing his beliefs’ on the matter. As Rudd pointed out, he did indeed publicly admit to reversing his former position on same-sex marriage. It’s a backflip to be sure but just the one. Hardly the tumbling routine Prater was suggesting.

Prater went further and claimed insider knowledge with regard to Rudd’s motivations for changing his beliefs saying it was ‘just to get a popular vote’. I’m not a Rudd fan and could easily imagine that might be true enough. However it’s not a provable statement and to accuse the Prime Minister of such on live television was more than a little cheeky, I think.

But Rudd didn’t return the insult. While making it clear he doesn’t hold the Bible in the same esteem that Prater does, he didn’t suggest that God was disinclined to rail against slavery in his Book because (Rudd happens to know) God is a despicable racist fuck. See? Manners.

Anyway, it turns out Pastor Prater’s talents extend beyond insulting public officials, quoting select snippets from ancient texts, and impersonating a rabbit about to be mown down by a combine harvester. Pastor Prater, I’ll have you know, is also an artiste. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and take a listen to his performance on the audio track here. It’s ranty, homophobic, lyric-bludgeoning gold. Although I found the performance hilarious, it is unquestionably nauseating. But do listen if you can stomach it…and then don’t tell me white guys don’t got no rhythm.


matt-prater--11720cda


Here’s my best effort to jot down the lyrics for you. There may be some mistakes but I’m totally not going back for another crack.

prater song copy

On the audio track, the first thing you might notice is that Pastor Prater uses the word ‘parody’ despite the fact that it does not mean what the thinks it means. Meh. An innocent mistake. He also seems to believe that media ratings battles are literally warlike and bloody. A misconception, perhaps. I suspect the homoerotic irony of suggesting that ‘bloggers ram it down your throat’ may have passed the good pastor by as well.

No matter. The real gist of this song is that it constitutes a laundry list of Everything Matt Likes and Everything Matt Doesn’t. American televangelists and Australian Christian hate groups? Yay! Labor politicians and two people with pokey-outy bits wanting to co-habit in legally-recognised monogamy? Boo!

It will seem almost unbelievable to sensible folk but Prater is not alone in popping these particular items neatly into Good Things/Bad Things baskets. Thousands of Australian Christians – in particular Pentecostal and other bible-believing fundamentalists – would share his views, even if most of them may have put it a little less hilariously. I once counted myself among them. With the fundies of Australia, I’d have been proud to see Prater ‘standing up for Jesus’ on Q & A, though I’d have acknowledged even back then that he made a bit of a tosser of himself.

But here’s the thing: Pastor Prater’s public airing of despicable bigotry didn’t happen in a vacuum. And I’d like to have a few words with him about that. So here goes:

***

Dear Pastor Prater,

If I were still a Bible-believing Christian, and I were going to get just one 30-second crack at speaking direct to the leader of our nation on live television, I may have used the opportunity a little more wisely than you did. I may have said something like…

‘Mr Rudd, as a Christian, how do you countenance forbidding entry to our country to some of our planet’s most vulnerable people? How can you justify sending refugees – men, women, children, the elderly – to a lawless, dangerous place like Papua New Guinea? And have you considered what effect that may have on PNG society? What about Christian compassion? What about Christian charity? What about upholding the rights of ‘the stranger within your gates’?’

or, perhaps…

‘Prime Minister, if re-elected, what will your government do to address the problem of child poverty in Australia? Will you reverse your decision to pitch thousands of single parents off the Single Parent Pension thereby driving them and their children into terrifying penury?’

or, even…

‘Mr Rudd, Australia is one of the richest, most generous nations in the world. How is it that in 2013 we still have people living on our streets, sleeping rough night after night? What will your government do to ensure these people can live their lives in dignity and safety?’

You had one chance, Pastor, and gay folk wanting to get hitched was your big Bible-honouring issue? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Most of us don’t give a rat’s eyebrow what you think your deity said 2000 years ago. We don’t either deny your right to construct yourself as Prater the Hater if you choose. But many of us have gay friends and family and so we do care that your publicly aired ‘opinions’ and ‘beliefs’ encourage homophobic hate to flourish. Real people in the real world are harmed by your views, Pastor Prater. Some of them die as a result. And some of those who die are children and young people. So with all the respect I can muster, and on behalf of the many gay people I know and love, I ask you to please shut the fuck up. Please keep your poisonous bigotry inside your church walls where fewer and fewer Australians choose to visit.

Very sincerely,

Jane

christian guys and porkie pies

>>Editing to note: The article was published by On Line Opinion 3o May, 2011.  Welcome to visitors who have followed a link from that site.

***

While others have already written about recent public statements by Christian leaders such as Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Jim Wallace and organisations such as Access Ministries, as a former fundamentalist pastor’s wife – no longer a believer – I’d like to share my perspective.

Until quite recently, I was a supporter of ACL and admired Jim Wallace for ‘standing up for Christian values’ which I, like many of my former friends, felt were under attack in Australia. Precisely what values were in danger of being quashed by godless atheists is now lost to me but I do at least remember feeling that we Christians were part of a small, embattled subculture, significantly under-represented in the public arena. I heard chaplains speak in church many times and remember that I, like most, if not all, of those in the pews were positive about the work chaplains were doing ‘reaching unchurched kids for Jesus’ in public schools.

So, while the content of Jim Wallace’s racist and anti-gay Anzac Day tweet was evidently deeply shocking to many non-religious people, it was precisely what I would have expected to hear from any serious Christian fundamentalist in a closed meeting with likeminded believers. I was somewhat taken aback that Wallace was so indiscrete as to share his true thoughts on twitter – but not wholly surprised as I will explain.

Church organisations and their private activities have not been of very much interest to anyone but themselves for…well…a long, long time. Christians have become used to this lack of scrutiny and, in my experience, have forgotten how out of step with the rest of the community many of their beliefs and attitudes are. I mentioned this in a church setting on a number of occasions. Once, at the end of a brief course on the how-tos of discipling new converts, I approached the group leader and asked what she would see as the difference between what she’d just shared with us and, say, the coercive and controlling strategies used by a cult – apart from the obvious fact that our beliefs were right. The leader, I think, experienced a Douglas Adamsesque upside-down-pink-bistro moment and was unable even to imagine a response to such a peculiar query. There was an awkward silence as she looked at me blankly, then smiled kindly, and walked away.

This incapacity to imagine how Christian, in-house communications might appear to those on the outside helps to explain Jim Wallace’s indiscretion. I imagine he just forgot for a moment that non-believers also follow him on twitter and was simply revealing what he really thinks about gay people and Muslims. But instead of either manning up and and taking the hit for his admission, or offering a sincere apology, Wallace immediately went on the attack, blaming those who brought his tweet to the attention of the media, saying that it was they who were causing the trouble, and accepting no responsibility whatsoever for provoking the storm that ensued as a result of his tweet.

There were Christian commentators, Bill Muehlenberg for one, who expressed disappointment that Wallace later offered a half-baked non-apology instead of standing by his bigoted beliefs. I expect there are many Christians who would agree with Muehlenberg on that score. After all, Wallace declares himself not just a Christian but a representative of the majority of Christians in Australia and we know that honesty is a virtue particularly valued in that faith community. Is it then unreasonable to expect a Christian representative should at least be able to take responsibility for his own words and abstain from telling porkies when questioned about them?

I imagine that many Australian Christians would also like to see Access Ministries, the primary supplier of chaplains to Australian public schools and a fundamentally Christian organisation, stand up for what it believes instead of hiding behind a facade of smiling but dishonest niceness as it is currently doing. Recent scrutiny of the contents of teaching materials, websites, newsletters and articles by and about Access Ministries have revealed, among other things, that Access, in breach of their contract with state education departments, and despite protestations to the contrary, their own publications reveal that Access Ministries chaplains have been merrily evangelising our kids in the school yard all along. A flurry of bottom-covering ensued last week as Access Ministries rushed to remove incriminating material from public view.

But I imagine no Christian would have be surprised by these revelations in the slightest. Chaplaincy organisations have never concealed their agenda to fulfil Jesus’s Great Commission of ‘making disciples of all men’, at least, they’ve been frank with other Christians about their aims. Indeed, it’s because that idea has broad Christian support that chaplains are able to attract private donations to subsidise their work. It’s just that, until now, no-one who wasn’t already a fan has apparently bothered to read their websites or newsletters to check whether they were indeed as harmlessly altruistic as they claimed.

But the cat is out of the bag. In the words of Access Ministries CEO, Evonne Paddison ‘…the greatest mission field we have in Australia [is] our children and our students. We need to go and make disciples.’ No-one, I think, is suggesting that this is incompatible with the Christian faith; enthusiastic evangelism is entirely consistent with a belief that, again in Paddison’s words, ‘without Jesus, our students are lost’. But subsequent to the public outcry caused by Paddison’s address, Access Ministries, instead of coming clean, released an explanation that attempted to perpetuate the lie that chaplains wouldn’t think of sharing the gospel with our children and that we should stop listening to the lefty, atheist ratbags who say they would. How very like Jim Wallace’s response.

I’m not the only one who finds this level of dishonesty staggering. The only explanation I’ve been able to come up with for the apparent ease with which Access Ministries continues to lie is that they are twisting another injunction of Jesus: to go out into a world of ‘wolves’ and be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10:16). But I wonder if they bend the truth at their peril. Apart from numerous bible verses which threaten hellfire for liars, it seems to me that this particular sort of dishonesty, claiming they are not wholehearted followers of Christ when in fact they are, skims perilously close to the nastier ‘denying Christ’ kind of lie. And Christians well-understand the eternal consequences of those.

I’d like to see Christian organisations of all sorts fess up to the fact that they are (gasp) followers of Christ and admit that that carries with it certain obligations such as sharing their faith at any reasonable opportunity. I’d like them to honestly explain what they’ve been doing in our schools and state what they intend to do in the future. Then parents, principals and the State can decide if it’s appropriate that they continue to get paid to access our children. And if not, Christian organisations can go back to preaching on street corners or some other non-taxpayer-funded activity in an effort to attract converts.

But, for heaven’s sake, enough of this despicable deception; it really is a humiliating spectacle. Christian or not, no-one ought to be telling lies with the ease and frequency that these Christian leaders are. It is a sickening charade. And they’re not fooling anyone anyway.

the stainless steel tube of fundamentalism

The end of the siege. Waco, Texas, February 28, 1993.

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to comment on another aspect of the recent Jim Wallace episode.

It’s probably perplexing to many that Wallace seemed unable to acknowledge the inappropriateness of his remark, indeed, that he seemed blind to all but the attack of his detractors on himself and, in his view, everything he holds dear.  This article by Bill Muehlenberg is similar in tone. But Muehlenberg ups the ante by using the truly disgusting term ‘gaystapo’ to describe what he identifies as one of ‘the usual suspects’: the ‘homosexual lobby’ and their ‘stalinist agenda’.

Because of my fundamentalist experience, this sort of language is uncomfortably familiar. Indeed both of these men are communicating precisely the way I would expect, although I imagine their pigheadedness must be incredibly frustrating for those who have never sat on that side of the fence. So let me try and cast a little light on it from an ex-fundy perspective. But be warned, what I am about to say may offend both Christians and perhaps to some atheists (thus pretty well knocking out all my friends in one fell swoop). I apologise for that in advance.

Being a fundamentalist is like living inside a stainless-steel tunnel. Truths that may seem perfectly obvious to other people just bounce right off without leaving a mark. Fundamentalists simply don’t see stuff they don’t already agree with. By and large they peer at the world through the very narrow hole at the end of their gun-barrel hidey hole and need to expend very little energy rejecting ideas that are contrary to their firmly-held views. These views are so staunchly inflexible because they are based on an unchanging document which they take to be the Word of God.

Try and see it from their perspective: The Book explains how Christians should understand the world. It tells them about God, about man, about heaven and hell, how to think and feel and act about pretty well everything. Many Christians hold an absolute belief that the words in the Book literally are directions straight from the God they love and serve. If the book says that all homosexuals will suffer hellfire, or that women are to live subordinate to men, who are they to argue? In fact, to do so would be unthinkable. It’s only logical: If God is real, and that really is his book, then the only sensible course is to obey whatever it says, to learn to think as God apparently thinks. He is God and therefore the one who gets to make the rules after all.

Although I appreciate that may sound silly to someone who has never thought that way, my purpose is not to ridicule those ideas or to suggest that people who hold ones which differ from mine are stupid – I know that is not the case. It is simply to say: Those ideas are beliefs. We all have them. And nobody is going to change our beliefs by shouting us. In fact, in the case of fundamentalists, it tends to have to opposite effect: It can make them go all Branch Davidian on you. Looking out of that stainless steel tube as people scream obscenities and throw poop at things that you know for sure are precious to God just makes you surer that moving into you and your kids into a bullet-proof metal abode was a good plan. After all, the Book says that if you are getting it right, ‘the world will hate you‘. Remember Waco? Believing they were under attack just made those poor cult members super-glad they had had the foresight to collect an arsenal, and more determined than ever to defend themselves and their children come what may. Nobody said, ‘Oops, yep, you were right. We’ve been pretty silly about all this. Coming out now. Thanks.’

I understand completely why people find men like Wallace and Muehlenberg and everything they stand for so deeply offensive. And I fully appreciate that offence provokes a deep rage that often finds form in a spluttering, obscenity-peppered response. I’ve indulged in more than one splutter myself in the past few days. As a catharsis, I admit its efficacy; and if you feel you need to do it, far be it from me to suggest you stop. But I do want to point out that screaming at men who have built such a sturdy wall around themselves will achieve virtually nothing…but make them more likely to repeat their offensive actions – and worse – at a later date.

And, I imagine, each time they find themselves the victims of twitter sprays, Wallace and friends rub their hands together with glee: It’s a PR free kick: they know they are likely to gain at least few new followers who sympathise with them in their sad persecution. This is why Wallace would focus on the attack and not his comments during his Sunrise appearance: He is ignoring us. He knows who he’s trying to reach and what they want to hear. There are a lot of disenfranchised Australians who agree with these fundamentalist commentators. Shouting abuse at Wallace will probably effectively stop most of those people from openly standing up and voicing their views for fear of becoming a target for attack – but it won’t alter their beliefs. The more Wallace is attacked, the more support I believe he is likely to gain.

I’m not suggesting that views such as Wallace voiced on Anzac Day should not be challenged. Of course they must. I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out of their way to be polite. Wallace and Muehlenberg’s views stink and that needs to be said. My object is not to chastise those who were understandably disgusted at Wallace’s tweet and vented their rage. But I believe it’s worth understanding what the likely effect of hurling abuse will be on Australia’s fundamentalists and the even more numerous moderate Christians: The leaders will hunker down, toughen up and become more hateful in their communications; the followers will quietly grow in number and resolve.

And we shouldn’t think we’ve seen any more than the tip of the iceberg of Wallace and Muehlenberg’s frothing zeal. Their views are almost indistinguishable from those of Westboro Baptist Church and many Australian Christians feel a strong connection to some other pretty scary US-based zealots as well. I suspect the ugliness has not anything like peaked.

My point is, you aren’t going to reach someone who lives in a bullet-proof cave no matter what you say. My advice is to forget about trying. If those fundamentalists are ever going to change their beliefs, it will not be because someone abused them into it. However, there are a lot of Australians who are sitting in the middle of issues such same-sex marriage who will listen and so may be influenced. Frankly, I think they find it difficult to sympathise with the more extreme communications from both camps. Those who want to influence this large, silent public might like to consider that undecided moderates are watching, and beginning to form their own beliefs.

I, at least, think that’s worth considering.

 

jim wallace and the despicable tricks of abusers (and arrogant schmucks)

Yesterday, Anzac Day here in Australia, will be remembered as the day head of the Australian Christian Lobby, retired Brigadier Jim Wallace, made a complete ass of himself on Twitter.

New to Twitter, Wallace, apparently moved during a patriotic Anzacy sort of moment, dashed off the following tweet:

In case you can’t read it, I’ll copy the content here:

Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!

Oh, yes. That’s in excellent taste, Jim.

The furore that ensued as Wallace’s tweet subsequently whizzed around the twittersphere was impressive and, more than once, obscene. Jim had managed, as I said, to make himself look a total git.

Within minutes, Wallace had removed the tweet and was covering his arse with the RSL by posting the following:

My apologies this was the wrong context to raise these issues. ANZACs mean too much to me to demean this day.

I’m guessing you noticed Jim was ‘apologising’ for the timing of his comments, rather than the content.

Anyway, I’m not going to comment on the obvious fact that Wallace inadvertently revealed his actual racist, anti-gay agenda, or that he chose such an inappropriate day to do all that, or the staggering arrogance of his false apology. But I can’t let this pass without saying a word about Wallace’s appearance on Channel 7’s Sunrise program this morning – his attitude reminded me so much of that of the many abusers and bullies I have had the misfortune to encounter. Here’s the video:

When asked to justify his now-notorious tweet, Wallace responded first by saying that ‘to be maligned by Twitter activists is not the end of the world.’ He goes on to compare himself to olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice whose one-time inappropriate tweet also caused her considerable humiliation. But at no point does Wallace take responsibility for posting what he now knows (if he didn’t before) was a dreadfully offensive statement to be making, nevermind making it in a public forum.

So…as someone who has close experience of the lasting effect of sexual abuse on children, I feel I need to make this statement:  I warn my kids about people like Jim Wallace in an effort to abuser-proof them. I tell them that bullies and abusers function by fooling us that it not the person who said or did something wrong who is at fault, but rather the poor sod who made an embarrassing fuss about it. I tell them that this is an evil lie.

Abusers harm us, and then slyly try to make us feel ashamed about saying we were harmed. They trick their victims into feeling bad that they spoke up rather than taking responsibility for their own abusive actions. The irony that no fuss would need to have been made had the abuser not acted inappropriately in the first place seems to evade them.

It’s this sort of self-preserving manipulation that makes molested children reluctant to disclose the terrible truth of the abuser’s actions for fear of spoiling everyone’s mood and bringing the wrath of the abuser down on their heads. Not that I’m suggesting Jim Wallace is a child molester, but the game is the same. And it should never go unchallenged.

Wallace had an opportunity this morning to acknowledge that his statements were racist and bigoted. He could have either repented and promised to mend his ways, or fessed up that that’s just who we are dealing with here (like we didn’t already know). His deflecting the blame for the furore from himself to the ‘kind of people’ who outed him is a despicably dishonest act.

So on behalf of all those of us who have had bullies and abusers try to smear our psyches with the shit of guilt that rightfully belongs elsewhere, I’m calling Wallace’s actions what they are. And now we know: He’s that kind of man.