Sometimes I just get weary of Christians who say that if we were only winsome enough in the public square then we could be up front Christians and take our place in meaningful corporate roles with no pushback. As if we never are winsome.
And as if winsome is even a strategy that will stave off the attacks.
The evidence is clearly in the opposite direction. The resignation after one day of the new Essendon CEO, Andrew Thorburn, because of his association with City on a Hill church in Melbourne is proof that when they want to do you over they will do you over.
Take a bow Dan Andrews, the most divisive and nasty leader doing the rounds in Australia at the moment. He meddles in everything. He happily stoked the fires of division by claiming that Thorburn was hateful and bigoted, and then allowed the media to do the pack-of-dogs job they are so good at doing, egged on by the cesspool of Twitter.
Thorburn has never mentioned publicly what his views were on any matters around sexuality and gender, but his guilt by association with a supposedly “controversial” (read “orthodox”) church was enough to have him done in. He was a dead man walking once the media got wind of it all.
He is the chair of the church, so that’s where the club got a toe-hold and once they got their toe in the door, then it was all over. He should have called their bluff, resigned as church chair and then seen what would have happened. Exactly the same thing. It’s not the fact that he was chair that outraged everyone, but the fact he attended such a church.
So the board chair said this, in yet another mealy-mouthed capitulation to the mob:
“I also want to stress that this is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs, but about a clear conflict of interest with an organisation whose views do not align at all with our values as a safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming club for our staff, our players, our members, our fans, our partners and the wider community.”
Appalling, isn’t it?
Safe, inclusive, diverse and welcoming. According to a strict and narrow band. Except of course for those parts of the wider community who may disagree with the Sexular Age. Yet still I hear from apologist Christians of the more progressive side of the faith, that “If only we’d shut up about sex”, or “If only we were more aligned with the social causes and less aligned with the culture wars, blah, blah, blah”.
Go back and read my post that I just wrote, the post that is already today’s fish and chip wrapper, not even tomorrow’s! There is no amount of winsomeness that you can exhibit. You will be labelled the equivalent of a smiling racist if you even hint that you attend a church that holds to an orthodox position on sexuality.
Just for once come out and give an orthodox Christian some support.
I’ve said it in the past, and it seems almost unbelievable at the time to some, that when government officials go after your job in Australia because of your ethical convictions around sexuality, then there will be silence from one wing of the church. And gee, there’s a lot of silence today.
Winsomeness is a failed strategy if you think that you will stave off the attack dogs by being so.
Does that mean don’t be winsome? No, not at all. Winsomeness is not a failed stance. As Christians we should always be winsome. But don’t expect it to be a strategy that will get you by in the increasingly hostile Sexular Age. Because it won’t. And don’t use it as a cover for cowardice. Check whose approval and blessing you really want.
Because if you’re putting all your eggs in the winsome basket, thinking people will be reasonable with you if you are, then there’s a risk you have forgotten the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
The key word is “falsely”. In other words Christians have to learn to smarten up and realise that without the Holy Spirit, our opponents in these matters will be under no compulsion to speak truthfully. We’re playing the game by a different set of rules. If you think that the only difference between you as a believer and our unbelieving friends and neighbours, work colleagues and social media sparring partners, is that we are a bit more winsome than they, then you’ve got a less than orthodox view of sin and spiritual death.
In the Beatitudes Jesus has to reiterate that we are actually “blessed” when stuff like this happens, cos it sure won’t feel like it. It will sure feel like a curse, and unfair treatment. Who likes having all kinds of evil pronounced against you “falsely”?
Here’s increasingly how you are going to get by if you do want to get by. Here’s how you’re going to manage to hold onto that influential management role, or that senior medical role and flourish in the public square and have people speak all manner of worthy things about you online, on Twitter and in newspapers.
By caving in. By going along with the cultural story. You may scoff at that, but if you even thought that six years ago a CEO would be forced to resign because of the church he attended, then you’re way behind the cultural story.
Rod Dreher didn’t get everything right in The Benedict Option. But those who scoffed at the notion that somehow orthodox Christians would no longer be welcome in the public square and would have to set up alternate institutions in order to survive and thrive, need to reassess their breezy optimism.
And the Essendon board? Just as bad as Daniel Andrews. How did they put it? How did they say the opposite of what is actually the case, again?:
“This is not about vilifying anyone for their personal religious beliefs.”
They can say that with a straight face? In the past it was a case of “keep your personal religious beliefs private and it will be alright”. So he did. And it wasn’t. As I said, he should have called their bluff, resigned his post as chair of the church, and made them squirm a little.
But then again, maybe he was just having the integrity and other-person-centredness that a Christian is supposed to have in the public square. He clearly put the interests of others ahead of himself, unlike the dreadful Dan Andrews whose whole purpose in public life seems to have been to cling on to power.
The good thing about a city on a hill though? It can’t be hidden. Let’s see what comes of all of this in days and weeks to come.
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