Category Archives: Q&A

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

an open letter to catherine deveny

Dear Catherine,

I realise you don’t know me but I feel compelled to write. I’m a close friend of Chrys Stevenson and, because I follow Chrys’ writing, I’ve been aware of some of the furore that has erupted since your appearance on Q&A on Monday night (10 September, 2012).

In a previous incarnation, I was a fundamentalist Christian and pastor’s wife. That’s not the relatively bland statement it may appear. I, and my children, were profoundly damaged by Christianity and, some years after leaving, we are still recovering. In any case, I thought you might like to know how that particular Q&A program looked to someone like me.

I understand, I think, what you mean when you describe Archbishop Peter Jensen as pure evil. His conduct on Q&A reminded me very much of how my ex-husband used to drive me to the point of blind rage, and then try to get me to believe I was the one at fault for losing my rag. It’s part of a clever technique I now know is called gaslighting.

Ingrid Bergman in ‘Gaslight’ (MGM, 1944)

Gaslighting is a term coined (from the movie ‘Gaslight‘) to describe a particular form of psychological or emotional abuse. The object is to cause the target to question themselves and their perception of reality. At its most extreme, the aim is to make a sane person appear demented (sometimes even to the point where they believe themselves to be going mad). The technique often works by contrasting the calm, reasonableness of the abuser against the increasingly emotional demeanour of the target. Gaslighting is often, but by no means exclusively, perpetrated by men against women; societal prejudices that position women as nervous, hysterical and less prone to logical reasoning work in the abuser’s favour. The abuser adopts the role of ‘smiling assassin’ and exploits the victim’s emotional response in order to discredit them. That abuse has, in fact, occurred is routinely denied.

Gaslighting is generally a very slow process, but while there was nothing gradual about what Jensen did, and, although I can’t imagine a whole cathedral of Archbishops being sufficient to convince you that you were the one at fault, Catherine, Jensen’s behaviour had all the hallmarks of a contrived strategy to make you look unattractive at best, and crazy at worst.

And both of those desired outcomes are tied to your being a woman. Making you seem ugly and mad is achieved through Jensen appearing the precise personification of elegant rationality and educated white maleness, all the while making vile and even outrageous statements, the import of which slide past the audience because of the persona and relational dynamic Jensen has crafted. It’s clever, and Jensen appears to be an expert. I imagine he’s been doing it for most of his professional life – and has been lauded for it. Without ever launching a personal attack, Jensen was able to make those watching join him in criticising you for being passionate, articulate, intelligent and a woman. Confronted with a communication style that should have raised little comment, viewers became embarrassed that you even existed, and most of them probably weren’t even aware of the sleight of hand being practiced.

Having spent many years in the church (where I found life as an intelligent woman who has trouble with submission fraught with difficulty) I noticed while I was watching Q&A, that two conversations were taking place in my living room. One was audible: like many viewers, I surprised myself by frequently shouting at the television in response to Jensen’s comments and demeanor; I was enraged on your behalf. The other conversation was internal, the vestigial voice of the church as I knew it – of male pastors, of God: “You are woman. Sit still! Be prettier! Take up less space! Be less powerful! Make less noise! Be nicer! We like you better when you are nicer.”

Women in the church are, in fact, largely controlled through what I call ‘the Cult of Nice’. That you – a woman – were passionate and disagreeably vocal on national television broke more seldom-spoken Christian rules than I can count. But the worst of your crimes was that you were proud and unafraid. A less practiced player may have shown himself to be overtly angry about that. But Jensen’s strategy, I think, was not to oppose you, but to destroy you – by making the rest of us ashamed of your strengths.

You, Catherine, violated the biblical doctrine of women’s ‘shamefacedness’, which, while almost invisible in contemporary Australia retains, I believe, the power to influence even many of the secular and liberal among us.

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (KJV)

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

and

1 Corinthians 14:34 (KJV)

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

and again

1 Timothy 5:14 (KJV)

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

As, no doubt, you know, there are more where those came from.

On Monday night, Catherine, you embodied everything that certain forms of Christianity despise about women. I know how disgusted many of the Christians I once knew would have been to see you in action. Still, I have found it astonishing that with scarcely a word, Jensen was able to make even his enemies and many of your supporters believe that you were guilty of some great transgression. Such is the power of the practiced gaslighter.

There will be Christian women – and perhaps secular women too – all over Australia this week who, whether traditionally feminine women or not, will be doing their darndest to show that they are Not Like Catherine Deveny. They will want others to know that they are good women. I imagine there once were black Americans provoked to similar attitudes in response to public criticisms of that most troublesome black American, Martin Luther King Jr, and for very similar reasons.

I am not proud to admit it but I also felt the power of Jensen’s pull on my own mind. I felt it first, in fact, when I watched you engage with former Howard government minister Peter Reith on Go Back to Where You Came From: a desire to side with Nice, a sense that I ought to feel embarrassed and repelled at your bold talk, your making yourself unpleasant to those who remained ‘better controlled’. I felt instructed to be silent, smaller, more pleasant to see and hear, more submissive, less trouble. Nicer. So this is me saying, “Fuck that!”

I am deeply sorry that you have found yourself the target of so many ludicrous and vicious attacks this week. I am not suggesting that others have no right to take issue with your views, or your delivery of them. I’m not suggesting that you conducted yourself perfectly, nor am I suggesting you should aspire to do so. I’m not suggesting that you should care whether you please me, or anyone else, or that you need, or even want, my support or appreciation. But I am suggesting that the deeply personal vitriol you have encountered may be explained by the strategies I have described.

And I want to put my hand up as one woman who values your contribution, and who, because of my own experience as a Christian woman, can see Jensen’s game plan for what it was. Perhaps, in some small way, that matters.

Very sincerely,

Jane