Obadiah Slope does not believe that politics will be a conversation topic in heaven
Thanks, bro: My twin, Peter, commending a movie to keep fostered siblings together on Facebook, revealed that “My twin brother and I were fostered and adopted together to our everlasting benefit. When kids have to be removed from birth families for their safety, the absolute priority must be to keep them together.”
Imagine how much worse the Obadiah Slope column would be if I had not had the reassuring presence of my twin in our journey through the orphanage, fostering, adoption and a trip to a new land. My earliest memory is of him clambering into my cot.
If I have my timing right, he is with me this week at the Anglican General Synod, a church parliament. Somewhat embarrassingly, he is a spokesperson for one particular faction in what could be a very divided council. Awkward because I will be trying to cover the event for Eternity in a straightforward journalistic way. Oh, well – life, as PM Fraser said, copying George Bernard Shaw, was not meant to be easy.
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Another Country: At election time, Obadiah’s mind turns to a favourite lyric – the second stanza of the English patriotic song ‘I vow to thee my country’.
The first stanza is very dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori (it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country), which usually sticks in Obadiah’s throat but feels very different in light of the Ukraine war).
But the second stanza is about a place that you, dear reader, should know well.
“And there’s another country
I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her
Most great to them that know
We may not count her armies
We may not see her King
Her fortress is a faithful heart
Her pride is suffering
And soul by soul and silently
Her shining bounds increase
And her ways are ways of gentleness
And all her paths are peace.”
I long for that far country, especially at election time. I am a citizen of Heaven, as Philippians 3:20 tells us.
I find I don’t exactly fit any of the parties we get to choose from. I don’t quite belong to any political tribe. Obadiah suspects that applies to many Christians.
There will be Christians with a sincere wish for something like the Coalition’s Religious Discrimination Bill. They also want to increase significantly our intake of refugees, which draws them to Labor or the Greens.
Others will be rusted on to a particular party – but the critical point Obadiah wishes to make is there is not just one party that rusted-on Christians are bonded to. If we ever got around to talking about Australian politics in Heaven (an unlikely prospect), we will find that we voted in very different ways.
Obadiah loves youse all, including those who have always been rusted on to any party.
However, there is a determined attempt to weld Christians to some conservative political movement – imitating many US evangelicals.
Christianity IS conservative. We hold on to things. “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us,” Paul tells Timothy. Hold on to the gospel. Hold on to your new life with the help of the Spirit.
But Biblical Christianity is radical, too. Consider the good Samaritan – who would be the good Samaritan if you were to tell the story set in modern Australia? For a lefty Christian, it might be a One Nation supporter. For a Christian of the right, it might be someone coloured green or teal. Jesus wanted his followers to think things through from first principles, from love.
Obadiah likes to think that of the things we want to treasure – human life, for example, Christians should be very conservative. He regards the loss of babies with Down syndrome as a great injustice. We need to care for all human life.
And treasuring human life will also put us on the far left. According to Obadiah, at least. A wealthy country should be prepared to sacrifice to help the needy of the world.
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The limits of desire: To the Roslyn Packer Theatre for a “dizzyingly beautiful tour de force” (The Guardian): Eryn Jean Norvill in the single-hander The Picture of Dorian Gray. Oscar Wilde’s story comes across like a morality play, a meditation on the pitfalls of making desire and pleasure the purpose of life. This story actually implies a Christian worldview.
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Vale George Duncan: It has been 50 years today since a young law lecturer named George Duncan drowned in the River Torrens. Testimony in the trial of several SA vice squad police officers established that members of the squad were involved in several assaults on young gay men, although they were acquitted after refusing to testify. Outrage at the drowning sparked the gay movement in Australia, predating the Mardi Gras by half a decade.
The death of George Duncan affected me during the years I spent on the Adelaide Uni campus, whose neo-Georgian buildings run along the river. Later as a keen Evangelical Union member and a student rep on University Council, I moved a motion to add sexual orientation to the Uni’s anti-discrimination rules. I think it went down something like 35 to 1. It was one more step in my career of tilting at windmills.