The current rather sensationalist charges through the Age (and other
outlets) of fundamentalist Christian political influence, are
disappointing and certainly unhelpful to social harmony. It’s also
ironic that references to alleged villification of Muslims by Ps
Danny Nalliah and Catch the Fire Ministries, are themselves
misleading or innacurate at best, or defammatory at worst. Readers of
the Age should note the following:
* Misha Schubert (19/1) reports that “Catch the Fire Ministries
advocates the destruction of mosques, casinos and bottle shops.” I
can only guess that this extraordinary charge is based on a quote
from Ps Nalliah later in the same article, urging Christians to
identify such venues and pray “to pull these strongholds down”. The
latter is a metaphor, typically used by some Christians to refer to
one form of prayer; it is about spiritual activity, not physical. Ps
Nalliah owns a Bible, not a bulldozer. With respect, this is very
sloppy journalism with potentially explosive consequences. A
prominent apology might be in order.
* Schubert also baldly reports that Nalliah “faces a fresh legal
hearing on a charges of racial vilification against Muslims.” Some
clarification, please. The hearing does not refer to a fresh set of
charges or a new controversy. It is a re-hearing of the same charges
by a different judge without further evidence, after a recent
unanimous Court of Appeal finding that Judge Higgins substantially
erred in the original VCAT judgement.
I’m no lawyer, but I would have thought that this again entitles
Pastors Nalliah and Scott to the presumption of innocence until
proven guilty. The original finding made every headline. It’s a pity
the appeal finding did not.
* It is widely reported that the Prime Minister has issued a DVD
partisanly endorsing a Catch the Fire gathering. References to the
DVD are accompanied by reminders that the Federal Treasurer addressed
such a gathering in 2004. It is true that Ps Nalliah is the chief
initiator of the approaching Australia Day prayer gathering, as he
has been of the National Day of Thanksgiving at which Mr Costello and
others have spoken. However these events are consistently attended,
co-led and endorsed by leaders and people of all mainstream Christian
churches, representing a wide range of views on Catch the Fire
itself. The events focus on Christian unity and national well-being,
not on interfaith controversy.
More generally, in the interests of good sense and harmony, we could
all do without phrases like “the Christian Right” applied to modern
Australia, as if this were America. A handful of Liberal and
National frontbenchers professing Christian faith, while in most
cases leaving it at home, is a very far cry from the power and
influence of conservative Christianity on US public life from its
earliest foundations. Australia has never known such a phenomenon,
and will surely remain a long way from it.
Enough of the straw man of feral Christian fundamentalism.