August 2, 2019

Which Tim Costello Will We Get This Week?

Which Tim Costello will we get this week?  It’s become a bit of a guessing game to wile away the hours.

Will it be School Principal Tim Costello, scolding naughty Christians “who need to “suck it up”?  Or will it be avuncular Tim Costello, putting a hand on our collective Christian shoulders and going “There, there, I want religious freedom in the workplace too.”

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This week it’s a bit of both, so have a read of the article.  Yet the focus again, as we have come to expect, is Tim’s chiding.

In his role as a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, Costello has been reported by the ABC as “chiding” Christians for being fearful of persecution.  And what’s more he links it to a fear of “the other’, explaining that it was the fear of asylum seekers that bred that attitude.

Never mind that huge swathes of the same Christians who are nervous about the hard Sexular Culture and its desire to ensure compliance in the workplace are the same Christians who actively supported – financially, and with friendship and time – asylum seekers.

And they did it without tweeting about it, or making a song and dance about it like many a celebrity did, who probably didn’t give up that room in their house for an asylum seeker, as many a Christian quietly did – sometimes whole houses.    Hey celebs, happy to be proved wrong on this one.

Costello singles out Lyle Shelton and his stance over Uluru, in which Shelton said our most famous monolith should be open to the public to climb.  I disagree with Lyle on this one.  I have always felt it disrespectful and would have liked to have seen Christians take the lead on this years ago. Some did and continue to do so.  Well done.

But once again Costello compares apples and oranges.  Conflating Lyle’s issue with what is going on in the workplace is disingenuous, Just as last time the ABC was keen to report Costello’s “suck it up” comment, now they’re happy to report his “chiding” comments as the headline act.

It’s been said before, but when those in Christian ministry chide the fear of those working in the public setting, it just comes across bad.  If you’ve got no skin in the game, then shouting from the bleachers is not all that helpful.

And all of this is being reported in the context of a mainstream media that made an art form of misreporting how Christian schools were behaving towards their gay students.

The ABC  itself, in the lead up to an election in which the Shadow Attorney General almost gleefully said that all employment protections would be taken away, got right on board.  It lined up narrative after narrative of young trans or gay students who had had toxic experiences in Christian schools.   The ABC sucked the oxygen out of any genuine debate, and then we’re left wondering why the voices on the more extreme ends are the noisiest.

Perhaps Tim could spend some time  chiding the ABC for its role in actually stoking fear through gross misrepresentation.

As board members in a Christian Education system we would sit in amazement, and frustration, at the sheer misrepresentation going on. Christian schools are some of the safest in actual terms of outcomes for every student; straight, gay and trans. There is serious evidence to prove this. Yet the faith-based system was constantly painted as some outposts of Gilead.

The fact is that many an Australian worker in the public square is fearful that they’re going to lose their job over their beliefs, and they’re self-censoring in the face of it.  And yet self-censorship is no longer enough, when the eagle eye of a progressive HR department is tracking your KPIs according to its social agenda ratings.  And then they’re having to deal with criticism – publicly – from more progressive Christians who hold to a diametrically opposite view on sexuality to theirs anyway.

This is a growing schism in the church.  Never mind where the culture is headed.  Christianity is headed down two tracks on this one.  If brothers and sisters who hold to a revisionist position on sexuality cannot support, publicly, Christians under pressure for holding to an orthodox position, then it’s game over as far as Christian unity is concerned.  I actually already think it is over, it’s just yet to play itself out fully in this matter.  Orthodox Christians will be meet with silence, rather than support, from progressive Christians on this issue.

But of course I do agree with Tim when he says this:

“I certainly believe that Christian schools, Jewish, Muslim schools, should be able to hire teachers who actually share their vision of flourishing and their belief system.”

Well and good Tim.  But you see, many many people don’t. Many of them work in the mainstream media, with whom you have a good working relationship.   So we know what you believe on this Tim. But a vision for a way forward, apart from saying you believe it?

It’s  time for you in your role to start chiding those at the ABC who view the Christian, Muslim and Jewish vision of human flourishing as not only a bad vision, but a dangerous one that needs to be restrained and delegitimised by the state. If Christians can take a chiding on the chin, the ABC surely can too.

It’s time to push them hard on why the rainbow future is so monochrome.  Religious belief frameworks do share a vision of flourishing – with each other. But the Sexular  Culture does not.  The Sexular Culture views religious sexual ethics as a toxic hindrance to human flourishing.  That’s the pressure point.

This is where it gets awkward.  You rightfully point this out:

“… you don’t ask the IPA [Institute of Public Affairs] to employ the left-of-centre people or the Greens to hire coal miners.”

But as has been pointed out the past, left-of-centre or right-of-centre is viewed in our culture as choice, these are not sacred, personal identity markers.  Sexuality in our culture is viewed as such.  No one is arguing for IPA to employ left-of-centre people, or for the Greens to hire coal miners.  That’s the point!  We’re looking for someone with as much clout as you to articulate that argument in the public square, and risk losing something yourself for doing so.

And until such a time as the Centre for Public Christianity can summon the intestinal fortitude to publicly challenge this then it’s going to be the Lyle Sheltons who fill that space, and bring other things with them that many evangelicals don’t agree with.

As I’ve also said before, we’re talking about public Christianity, not privatised religious faith. Privatised religious faith will turn a blind eye to the asylum seeker as well, don’t forget that.

So Tim, in your very public role, in a self proclaimed public organisation, offer us a public alternative that can simultaneously be sympathetic to the plight of refugees, honour places like Uluru, AND take a stance for public orthodoxy on that most secular of shibboleths – sexuality (and dare I say it, full-term abortion).  You might have to chide the likes of the ABC somewhat if you’re going to do it.

But, then again, that’s just what public fearlessness just might have to look like in such times as these.




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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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