I have prayed so often for a Damascus Road experience for the post-evangelical cohort in the church in Australia, but never did I expect a conversion so quickly.
Today, after the Australian Christian Lobby’s headquarters in Canberra was severely damaged in a vehicle explosion, planned and carried out deliberately by the driver of the vehicle, the same church activist crowd that has expressed complete mistrust in Australia’s law enforcement authorities in the area of refugee detention, is suddenly falling over itself to affirm the police’s initial statement that the incident was “not politically, religiously or ideologically” motivated.
Here’s one Facebook response from a well known activist priest:
Police have confirmed that the explosion of a vehicle outside the offices of the Australian Christian Lobby was ‘not politically, religiously or ideologically motivated.’ Nobody wants damage to their place of business, and I fully understand that the staff are shocked and upset. But no, this is not a calculated attack on the Australian Christian Lobby by political adversaries.
Perhaps if his name were Father Brown, of GK Chesterton fame, I might take him more seriously and applaud his detective work – especially from a distance of some four thousand kilometres. Or perhaps it’s proof that my faith isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Or perhaps it’s simply proof of the seething contempt in which many liberals and post-evangelicals in the church hold towards those with whom they disagree, especially on the big ticket items in the cultural public space. They cannot, simply cannot, be seen to give them an inch.
It’s clear: the post evangelical cohort can no longer demonstrate charity towards other Christians with whom they disagree because their primary allegiance has shifted from gospel orthodoxy to progressive politics.
Indeed another of that same cohort bemoaned the fact that the ACL will simply milk this for publicity. Which may be the case. Or may not be. It’s certainly too early to tell with certainty. Just like it’s too early to tell with certainty whether there was a sinister motivation behind the attack, despite what the good Father says.
But let’s put conspiracy theories aside and look at the facts. This was a blown opportunity to express gospel unity between warring factions. And it demonstrates a complete lack of gospel humility and leadership. But then again as one of this same crowd has said to me privately in the past over our disagreeing on sexual ethics matters, “You and I have very different gospels.”
I agreed with him on that, on the proviso that we both admitted that there is only one gospel and that one of us must therefore be quite wrong. He expressed his satisfaction with those odds, which in itself is rather odd, given that his gospel would not include my gospel, considering just how expansive his gospel is.
So I am not suggesting that the explosion today was motivated by darker forces beyond the poor driver’s broken mind, and I for one tend to trust the police on this sort of matter myself. But I am suggesting that for someone such as the good Father, er, Brown, to leap lovingly into the arms of the federal authorities after years of contrarianism and deep suspicion, smells of something far more pungent than cooking gas.
It smells of sulphur.
It smells of a cohort that has drifted so far from the gospel ethic on a number of other matters, primarily the biblical sexual ethic, that anyone who challenges it is their sworn enemy. Today was a chance for many Christians who disagree with the ACL to stand up and denounce what happened, or at the very least, express solidarity and concern, not wave it off as something the ACL will simply take advantage of.
Now let me make it clear, I for one would not necessarily be aligned with the methodologies of the ACL on all fronts, and I have criticised some statements by Lyle Shelton in the past, but I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to uphold the historically orthodox positions of all Christian churches down the centuries on matters of sexuality, human value and worth.
And for the erstwhile Father Brown’s benefit, if he is reading this, I happen to hold to his perspective on the refugee issue in this country. They should be released to live in Australia. Always felt that. Always will.
The shame of course is that those in the evangelical Left crowd who follow the likes of the good Father, will stay silent on this matter as well. Why? Primarily because it will cost them too much to say otherwise. This crowd is allowed no nuance, no wiggle room. They must show no solidarity with those with whom they disagree on socio-political matters, even other Christians
Will anyone from that side of the fence dare break ranks? I doubt it. Friendships would be at risk if someone voiced support for the ACL simply and only because they are fellow Christians in the public square. It’s as if there is no true gospel unity at work, because, of course, there’s not.
So my counsel to those of you who hang on the words of the Father Browns of the world, remember that you are compelled to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Yet the silence in support of fellow brothers and sisters who share these tenets with them is deafening, while the dismissive comments such as those above speak volumes.
The central truth of Scripture is not that we love, but that we love our enemies, and for too many years the zero-sum game of the political world has cowed into silence Christians who should be standing up for those brothers and sisters with whom they disagree. That is something they need to repent of.
They are being more shaped by and drawn to political ideologies, than gospel realities; more gathered around social causes than the centrality of the cross and what it means for reconciliation between God and humans, and humans and humans.
Today’s incident was an opportunity for the leaders of this cohort to forge the gospel path of unity and reconciliation, but that was, alas, a Damascus Road too far for them.