Obadiah on Scripture, elections and a citizenship that is found in heaven

OPINION

Next one: The old ALP members card used to say, “The unity of labour is the hope of the world”. Wrong. Obadiah has been a keen union member for most of what laughingly might be termed his career. (He certainly careered.) But he knows that the hope of this world is the next one.

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In but not of this world: Pastor Mark Edwards – a key thought leader in the Australian Christian Churches network – wrote in Eternity that he felt unheard in the election.

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Not so much during the campaign but on election night itself.

“If you were one of those disillusioned who delivered a body blow to the government by electing someone outside of the major parties, then waking up Sunday morning must have felt so good.

“But as a person of faith, I went to bed on Saturday night and woke the following morning feeling continuing frustration that my voice didn’t seem to have been heard at all. In fact, I know now what it is like to shout in the wind. Before polling day I had learned a hard and painful lesson: people of faith are mistaken in the belief that if we get the right people in the right places, change will take place.”

Mark opens up his heart in the piece he wrote for Eternity. But Obadiah thinks he should take heart – feeling you don’t quite fit is what one expects if you are a citizen of heaven. Mark, most of us Christians feel the same way. We belong somewhere else.

And when we went to vote – as distinct from what we may have felt on election night – most of us Christians found it hard to find a party that fitted for us. We had to settle for what we could find on the voting form.

As St Paul tells those Philippians: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20

Mark knows that one, of course. But Obadiah thinks pointing to the Scripture is part of what this column is for! It is infinitely more comforting than any election material.

Meanwhile, we do our best to love our neighbours and proclaim King Jesus. Keep right on, Mark!

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Shattered: Mark said he’s learned that this does NOT happen: “If we get the right people in the right places, change will occur.”

Risking smart-arsery, Obadiah would like to point out:

1) Actually, social conservatives like Mark (and that is not an insult, folks) did not get enough people into the right places. Conservative pollies over-promised, hence the same-sex marriage plebiscite and the car crash of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

2) Learning to count is the stuff of politics, which means building coalitions and not expecting to have everything your own way.

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Obadiah jumped into Philippians 3 just then. So here’s the context – the previous two verses. “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”

Slope points to Paul’s writing with tears. There is so much we want to tell the world for which we need tears.

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Shocked: Obadiah was pleasantly shocked when he fronted up as a volunteer scripture teacher at his local public school. The kids remembered him from a couple of months teaching, pre covid.

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The release of a report into hundreds of sexual abuse cases involving pastors in the giant Southern Baptist denomination in the US was accompanied by details of how church leaders tried to prevent the investigators from gaining access to legal records. They were fearful of the reputational damage. Two Texas newspapers, The Houston Chronicle and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, teamed up in 2019 to uncover that there were hundreds of abuse cases involving Southern Baptist pastors. That led to the new investigation.

Just as in the case of Joanne McCarthy of the Newcastle Herald’s lonely fight to expose sexual abuse in the Catholic and Anglican churches, it falls to the press to uncover things when the church fails to act. Of course, not all media stories are as well-sourced or accurate as these examples. But sadly, they have been needed, and Slope is proud of his journalistic comrades.

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Pedants’ corner: readers familiar with Obadiah Slope’s original in Anthony Trollope’s Barchester novels will remember it was Tom Towers, the opportunist journalist in the Barchester books. So Tom, rather than Obadiah, should be congratulating his journalistic comrades.

Here is Trollope’s scathing description of Tom Towers from The Warden. “It is probable that Tom Towers considered himself the most powerful man in Europe; and so he walked on from day to day, studiously striving to look a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a god.”