Closed minds at the Australian Open

Mixed doubles for Tony Abbott, Anna Wintour, Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop

The big surprise of the Australian Open tennis tournament is we got as far as the semi-final round before the Margaret Court controversy erupted. It was almost eerie that the naming of a stadium after the Perth-based Pentecostal pastor and former tennis champion Margaret Court had not been beaten up in the media until the competition was almost over.

But in a bout of virtue-signalling, the Open’s celebrity guest, US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, has given a keynote speech to the Open’s  “inspirational series” in which she demanded that Margaret Court Arena be renamed because of Court’s “intolerant” views on same-gender marriage.

“Margaret Court was a champion on the court, but a meeting point for players of all nations, preferences, and backgrounds should celebrate somebody who was a champion off the court as well,” she said, according to the ABC report. 

“I have been alarmed by your Prime Minister’s record on LGBTQ rights.” – Anna Wintour

If it were needed, Anna Wintour has established beyond doubt that conservative Christian views on homosexuality are beyond the pale for fashionable opinion. But it would be possibly in bad taste to remind readers at this point that Wintour was the subject of the movie The Devil wears Prada. Oops.

Wintour also criticised Scott Morrison: “I have been alarmed by your Prime Minister’s record on LGBTQ rights, which seems backward in all senses,” she said in a Nine report.

In a sign that this really is election season – or maybe just that the Liberal Party is running its own internal culture war – former foreign minister Julie Bishop supported Wintour’s speech about Court and Morrison, saying she had made some “pretty pertinent points.”

“I should be able to have my say as a minister of the gospel.” – Margaret Court

Meanwhile, former PM Tony Abbott returned serve, saying Wintour had her facts “facts wrong” and gave “ignorant lectures,” the Australian reported. 

Court took a wildcard entry in the next round, telling the ABC: “All I said is what the Bible said. If they choose to be gay, that’s fine. I have them in my church — they come every Sunday. They’ve been doing the flowers in the church for 14 years, and they’re my biggest fans.”

Court said calls for the arena to be renamed were “another example of freedom of religion being under threat.”

“I should be able to have my say as a minister of the gospel,” she said.

This skirmish in an ongoing culture war serves to remind Christians that worldly honours – our names on buildings and other acknowledgements – may become increasing rare, but that does not matter.

We should not seek confrontation, or do anything except treat all with gentleness and respect.

Every day, Christians in churches across the land engage in works of service, in most cases totally unknown to the media or public. Reflecting the values of the kingdom of God does not consist in seeking publicity. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,” Jesus told his first followers, “so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4). But some good works will be visible, and will lead others to “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Our reputation, and more importantly our Saviour’s reputation, is influenced by his blessing the works of  our hands – not any endorsement by Anna Wintour or any other celebrity.

We should not seek confrontation, nor do anything except treat all with gentleness and respect. When Margaret Court’s name was first placed on the tennis arena, I am sure she was pleased. And if it is ever removed, she will be disappointed. But she will be aware that the work she does as a preacher is work that will last forever – being honoured as a tennis champion will never come close.