Archives For Fred Nile

We’ve got the Katter Australia Party, and the Palmer United Party, I think it’s time we had the Fred Nile Party – the suggestion that Nile’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP) is definitively Christian is getting harder and harder to swallow. I propose a rebrand.

The TL:DR; version of this post is that if you think the CDP should change its name you should fill out this change.org petition.

Here’s what the CDP says it stands for:

“While we have fought for the values that made our nation, we are committed to the future development of our nation as an inclusive community based on cohesive values that made us a people.

The CDP seeks to support and promote pro-Christian, pro-family, pro-child, pro-life policies for the benefit of all Australians, and to ensure that all legislation is brought into conformity with the revealed will of God in the Holy Bible, with a special emphasis on the ministry of reconciliation.”

It’s unclear to me how this image the CDP shared on Facebook is consistent with this platform, let alone with the God of the Bible (the Bible is curiously silent on Australia and the role of its flag), it isn’t silent on how we’re to treat people who are different to us – especially how those who are powerful should treat those who are vulnerable or marginalised. In a democracy, where you’re part of the majority – regardless of your socio-economic status – you are part of the ‘powerful.’

 

CDP

Muslims in Australia are not our enemies. They’re our neighbours. And even if a particular individual wants to position themselves as my enemy – or yours – if you follow Jesus this doesn’t change how you treat that individual. Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5 (verses 44 and 45)

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

I can’t fathom how this image is loving to our Muslim neighbours (a core value of Christianity from the mouth of Christ himself).  I certainly can’t fathom how the word Christian belongs on the image at all. I don’t think Jesus is particularly interested in the Australian flag. His concern is that people put their trust in him, and find their citizenship in his kingdom. People are in the same non-Jesus boat whether their rejection of him pushes you towards a storm trooper helmet, Australian flag face paint, or the niqab.

Our citizenship, as Christians, is not caught up in the nation we are providentially born into, or blessed to migrate to and be accepted into as citizens, our citizenship is tied up with our king, and that means though we’ll want to love our neighbours in whatever geographical context we find ourselves.

There’s a letter about Christians, written to a guy named Diognetus, that describes how the early church lived in the places they lived that would be helpful for us to remember – especially as the idea of Christendom gets smaller and smaller in our rear view mirrors.

But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.

They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.

Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign.

We don’t need to get caught up in jingoism (and if we do find nationalism, or patriotism, personally compelling, perhaps reflecting on the role our ancestors have played in shaping the country we live in, or being excited about the role we play in shaping our nation as citizens, we certainly need to distinguish our patriotism from our Christianity).

Philippians 3 kind of captures all this stuff – it talks about what a Christian looks like (they follow the example of Jesus, in this case Paul as he follows that example), it talks about those people who don’t follow Jesus. It should grieve us when people don’t follow Jesus.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 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. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.

You might want to play the “no true Scotsman” game here, but I’m going to work on the assumption that the word Christian means what it meant when it was coined (you may also want to call this an etymological fallacy). Christians are people who follow Jesus. Here’s a little story from Acts that describes how people first came to be called Christians, and who this label described – you’ll notice that it transcends national boundaries, but particularly it describes the changes that make people ‘Christian’… This is from Acts 11.

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

I have no reason to doubt that Fred Nile is a Christian. I’m not calling that into question. But the CDP platform in general, and this message above in particular, are not Christian policies, they’re Fred Nile’s policies. It’s wrong for him to suggest otherwise. Jesus is the essence of Christianity. I’d go further to suggest that his sacrificial love on behalf of his enemies, in order to invite them to be part of his kingdom (and indeed, his family) is the essence of Jesus.
This charade has gone on for far too long. There might not seem like much you can do about it beyond putting up your hand and saying ‘not in my name,’ and working hard to love and include Muslims treating them like Jesus treated you. But please pray for Fred Nile. He’s a human. By all accounts he loves Jesus. Pray for those in the CDP. And write to them. You can get Fred Nile’s email address here, or simply sign this change.org petition and you’ll send him this email:


Dear Fred,

The time has come. While it is true, in the broadest sense, that the Christian Democratic Party occupies a legitimate position in Australia’s political landscape, and it is true that people of faith should have a voice in Australian politics, we call on you to change the name of your party because at present you are not living up to any of your titular nouns.

Christian (n): Followers of Jesus Christ.
Democratic (n): relating to, or supporting democracy or its principles.
Party (n): a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment.

or:

a formally constituted political group that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government.

While I have no reason to doubt that you are a follower of Jesus, personally, it is clear from recent hateful nationalistically driven attempts to prevent other citizens of Australia exercising their democratic rights (where a CDP Facebook post suggested Australian flag face paint is the “only face-covering that is acceptable in Australia”) that the ADP’s actions are not those that can meaningfully said to be following Jesus.

Jesus laid down his life for his enemies to make them his family, and called those following his example – taking his name – to love our neighbours (and our enemies). There is no Christian rationale for treating a fellow human as an enemy.

It is also clear that the ADP is not interested in extending democratic principles to those people they disagree with. It is also clear that your party is failing to adequately act as a party in either sense – in this bigoted posturing dressed up as ‘Christian’ you are neither entertaining, nor ‘attempting to form or take part in a government’.

If you are not going to speak in any way that recognisably represents or recommends that people find their identity in Jesus – God’s king – then please change your name.

“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
Sincerely,
[Your name]


Other stuff to read

I thought last night’s Q&A was going to be a trainwreck.

The Christian panellist, Christian Democrat MP from New South Wales, Fred Nile, isn’t exactly presented in the media as being moderate and nuanced. Lawrence Krauss went toe-to-toe with John Dickson – one of Australia’s most impressive Christian thinkers, and while it was a bit of an agree fest, Krauss showed he was capable of being winsome and engaging. And he was back. The rest of the panel were window dressing for this fight – former British Anglican Bishop, the openly gay Gene Robinson was on as something like the middle ground between the two, and there were a couple of Australian pollies – Amanda Vanstone and Susan Ryan.

I was worried. I wasn’t going to watch. And then I flicked to the ABC at about 9:45. And caught this interaction…

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, there Fred. I want to ask you when the suicide rate is so high in LGBT teens, when you use such hateful and disgusting language about them, do you not feel – or I think maybe you should – feel slightly responsible for some of this that goes on?

FRED NILE: I must object to that because I will give you $1,000 if you can find anywhere where I have said anything which is hateful or vicious about homosexuals. Okay.

TONY JONES: Okay. I think it is time to move on.

Fred was facing a pretty hostile group of panellists – even the other religious guy was against his clear presentation of the historically orthodox understanding of the gospel. He managed to be relatively gracious, speak of God’s judgment, and keep pointing the conversation back to Jesus.

I missed this bit… according to the transcript.

FRED NILE: Because I take, as my authority, Jesus Christ, the son of God, and also the living word and I believe that God gave to us the written word, the holy Bible and as a Bishop you would know the church for 2,000 years and longer has upheld marriage as it is and has also said that homosexuality is immoral and unnatural and so on. So you are going against the teaching of the church so you should be ashamed to be a Bishop and going against the teaching of the church.

TONY JONES: I’m just going to interrupt because…

FRED NILE: I am agreeing with (the transcript says “referring to”) that atheist over there.

That came after Gene Robinson had played down any meaningful distinction between religions.

GENE ROBINSON: I am actually delighted to respond to that question. It is the experience of the living God in my own life. That is why I stick with it. That is why I believe that the church, the synagogue, the mosque can constantly reform itself because God’s will is being revealed to us over time. We are constantly understanding better God’s will and this is one of those places where we are changing what we have believed for 2 or 3,000 years. I believe that scripture is holy in the sense that it is the story of people who have had an experience with the living God and we read it in order to know where to look in our own lives for an experience of the living God. And so I do believe in it. The Church has got a lot to apologise for but, then again, don’t we all? And I believe that this is the way to discern God’s will and I am thrilled to be a part of that.

I also missed this.

AMANDA VANSTONE: So you can be a nice person your whole life and still not get into heaven?

FRED NILE: That’s right. That’s right.

TONY JONES: Just excuse me for one second because…

AMANDA VANSTONE: It is not worth going there.

FRED NILE: Yes.

TONY JONES: …on this table we have two…

FRED NILE: To have eternal life you…

TONY JONES: Excuse me. Excuse me for one minute.

FRED NILE: …have to believe in Jesus Christ as saviour.

TONY JONES: Excuse me for one minute.

FRED NILE: There’s only one way.

Amanda Vanstone came back at him again…

TONY JONES: Just to sort of end this part of the discussion, can I just bring Fred back in here. I mean are you worried if you create an exclusive world where your version of Christianity leaves out people like Gene, that that is actually bad?

FRED NILE: Well, I’m not leaving him out. He is excluding himself. I haven’t left him out. I want him to come in.

TONY JONES: Well, in fact, he’s not excluding himself in the sense that he is a bishop with his own congregation.

FRED NILE: I would like you, at the end of this program, to say, “I believe in what you have just been saying Fred.” I hope he might do that.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: But all the people who also believe in God but from other religions are also excluded, I presume. So basically you’re an atheist about all the other religions. It’s just yours you’re not. Is that correct?

FRED NILE: I leave it to God. He is the judge and he will judge each person.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: So, no, but are they excluded? If you’re not a Christian but you, say, you’re a very faithful Muslim or a faithful Jew, are you excluded?

FRED NILE: I’m just saying God will judge them not me.

TONY JONES: Okay. We’ve got a…

FRED NILE: I know God is a loving God and God will be fair in his dealing with each individual.

And kept pushing that “good enough for God” wheelbarrow all the way up the hill.

AMANDA VANSTONE: I don’t know the details of the second case but they would seem, on what you have said, to be inextricably related. I mean the more you have people saying Muslims want to go and kill everybody, the more you have whipping everyone else up into a frenzy of fear and apprehension and a feeling that they must deal with this. So it goes back to what my granny said: if you lead a good life, you will get into any heaven worth getting into and it follows that you – you know, if I get up to Heaven and St Peters says, ‘Gee, you made a mistake and you went to the Anglican Church and you should have gone to a Catholic one or you should have gone to some other church,” I’m going to be bitterly disappointed because I went to a Christian school and I was taught the need to be a good person and not judge people, as you say, on labels. It doesn’t matter if they are Catholic or Anglican or Muslim or whatever. What matters is whether they are a good and decent person and that is how we should be dealing with each other. And once you start this, “Well, they’re Muslims. They want to kill you,” well, you’re separating it out, you’re getting into us and them and you will have battles, ugly ones, where people will be killed.

How wishy washy and meaningless. She didn’t pull her punches after Tony Jones had rung the bell for the end of the evening’s discussion though, hitting out with this low blow that Fred Nile couldn’t reply to.

AMANDA VANSTONE: Fred. Fred, I think I can help you with one thing at least and that is that any God worth following wants converts not conscripts. So religious people should stop looking to parliaments to conscript people into a belief that they don’t adopt.

That’s bad. It’s not very nice. It’s poor form. According to her view of salvation, she should be a little worried now.

Krauss on Labels

This was another bit that showed the intolerance of the New Atheists and the contrast with Jesus… this was in a discussion of the recent events in England…

FRED NILE:… I follow what Jesus said: love your enemies and that is the central teaching of the Christian faith. It’s not a source of violence against people at all.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Who are the enemies in this case? I just don’t who the enemy are. Are you saying Islam is the enemy? You know, the problem is…

FRED NILE: Well, whoever is attacking you…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Yeah.

FRED NILE: Whoever is attacking you, like in Cairo, burning down the Cathedral, that is your enemy. So you still love them but you try to change that society.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Part of the problem here, and I agree with, of course, what you just said, but we label people and religion is a wonderful way of labelling people and making us versus them. And so we don’t see the people, we see them being Christians or Muslims and we hate them because of that and so that’s another reason why, I think, religion gets in the way because it causes us to stereotype people instead of seeing people as individuals with a common humanity…

Tony Jones interrupts with something meaningless… and Krauss gets back on point…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: The point is that obviously they were driven by hate. My point was that they were not killing that poor young man because they knew him, they knew anything about him. They had already labelled him by a bunch of labels: military, representative of a Christian state that had done supposed atrocities against Islam and that is the kind of labelling that leads people to be able to do these heinous acts because they no longer see people as people but representative of something they hate and that, to me, is one of the real problems of the us versus themness of religious groups that cause other people to no longer be people.

Then he lets this clanger rip. Holy contradiction Batman.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Steve Weinberg, who is a physicist and also an atheist, said that there are good people and there are bad people and good people do good things and bad people do bad things. When good people do bad things, it’s religion.

Where Nile went wrong

Nile wasn’t great on the homosexuality question. He was faithful. He tried. He tried to be loving. But he was just outclassed and out of touch on the origins of homosexual orientation. He argued that same sex attraction is a choice because it is changeable – when all that reveals is that change is possible, it says nothing about the origins of the attraction. What was interesting was that Krauss and Robinson had a bit of a disagreement – Robinson, “the gay Gene” (line of the night) suggested same sex attraction is a product of environmental factors that kick in before you’re three, which is consistent with just about everything I’ve read on the topic. Krauss “corrected” him, apparently he’s a biologist now, and there is a gay gene out there. Because some animals are gay. That’ll be news to people who’ve conducted twin studies.

I didn’t love his emphasis on the distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament – the continuity is greater than the departure, and Jesus affirms the New Testament. It’s hard to present a nuanced account of the narratives of the Old Testament when the dices are loaded like they were in the questions, and when people have pretty strong preconceptions about horrible stories in the Old Testament, as though God affirms what is happening there. Like this exchange. Thanks for your objectivity and literary nuance Tony…

TONY JONES: Just like, in fact, you could take that psalm, which is out of the old testament, which suggests you could dash babies’ heads against rocks as part of a revenge against the Babylonians…

FRED NILE: Well, that’s the point I’m making, that that is no longer relevant in the new testament period. Jesus said that was the old covenant. We’re now under the new covenant.

The answer isn’t that that verse somehow applied literally once upon a time. The answer is to look at genre. Psalms, poetry, aren’t exactly known for being law. The Psalm does not say “you must dash babies’ heads against rocks”… nor is there any evidence that Israel was ever in a position where dashing Babylonian babies against rocks was a possibility. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Psalm is saying that Babylon is really, really, really bad. So bad that people who do things that sound really, really, really, bad to them are commended because they are so bad that such an act is good by comparison. That seems to make more sense of the text than a command to murder babies. Especially in its literary context, and in the narrative context (Israel’s history). Here is the offending verse…

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

This insensitivity to the context of passages in the Old Testament was demonstrated by panellists as well, so Krauss:

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: I am sure we will get to talk more about marriage but I want to go back to the questioner a little bit because it seems to me I actually kind of agree with him a little. I can’t quite understand why you stay in the church. I mean, look, you read the Bible and it’s pretty explicit. You know, there’s that wonderful section, really heart-warming, where Lot is visited by these angels, men and the town’s people want to take him on a raid and he says ‘No, no, rape my daughters instead,’ and, you know, it is one of the wonderful parts of the Bible. And when you read all of this and, you know, you read that men who lay together should be killed and all that, you know you can interpret it all you want but you’re sort of picking and choosing, I think. You decide you want to be a Christian and you throw out the stuff that you don’t like, like I think most Christians do, actually. Throw out the stuff you don’t like, keep the stuff you do. Why not just throw out the whole thing and just be happy and love people and be gay?

Lot’s actions aren’t affirmed in this narrative, you get the sense, if you’re a normal reader, that Lot isn’t held up as a paragon of righteousness here. Description isn’t prescription. This would be like me reading Krauss describing his version of Christian theology and ignoring the context and assuming that’s what he believes…

“People who are loving, caring, good people will go to hell.”

Or perhaps:

“Well, I mean, I actually think the worse crime in the new testament is the crucifixion of Jesus.”

The fuller context of these quotes is more fun than the misquoting game though…

Where Nile got it right – pushing Krauss on Jesus

The best bit of the night, for mine, was how incoherent Krauss looked on Jesus. He lost points a couple of times, and had the twittersphere turning against the snide new atheists with gems like this one…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Well, let me jump in and say – I mean we’re all pretending Jesus was this great guy but let’s step back and say this guy also seemed to say if you don’t believe in me you know what, you’ll be condemned. You know you won’t get to heaven. You’ll be condemned eternally to pain and worse than the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, just for not believing in me. What kind of God would you – I mean, you know, what kind of love is that? What kind of love…

FRED NILE: That was the…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: People who are loving, caring, good people will go to hell for all eternity for choosing – choosing to have the – to use their brains and I find that just, you know.

Then there was this one…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Well, I mean, I actually think the worse crime in the new testament is the crucifixion of Jesus. It seems to me amazing that you solve the problems of the world by having someone sacrifice – by having this person violently tortured and sacrificed for the sins of a non-existent forbearer, who made a mistake of taking an apple from a rib-woman. I mean it just doesn’t seem to make sense.

TONY JONES: Okay. All right.

FRED NILE: Jesus was dying for all of our sins. Your sins and my sins and the victim’s sins.

And finally, what I think made the night worth the price of admission… or what would have if I’d paid to be admitted…

FRED NILE: I would just like to challenge Lawrence that the greatest fact is the fact of Jesus Christ.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: How do you know?

FRED NILE: He is a reality and he came into this world to show us the way of salvation and he said in his own teaching…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Is that because he said he did?

FRED NILE: …”Who do you say that I am?” And so the question you have to ask who was Jesus Christ and what is his meaning – what is his meaning, his life to you and his death? You talked about the crucifixion. What does his death mean for you? And it’s a source of salvation. He died for our sins, the sins of the world.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Well, you know, when someone tells me they’re God I tend not to believe it. Okay. But, you know…

FRED NILE: But have you studied…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Hold on.

FRED NILE: Are you open-minded enough as a scientist…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: I’m not even sure he was real, to tell you the truth.

FRED NILE: …to study – to study Jesus Christ and to study the new testament?

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS TALK AT ONCE

FRED NILE: Are you open-minded enough, I just…

TONY JONES: Fred. Fred. Fred.

FRED NILE: …would like you to give me…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: When I was a kid…

TONY JONES: Can I just put this to you, the counterpoint: Are you open-minded enough to accept the Muslim position that Mohammed is the greatest man in history?

FRED NILE: I don’t believe he is the greatest man in history in the same way Jesus Christ was. Jesus Christ was the son of God and…

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: But that’s because you have decided he is.

FRED NILE: But that’s factual history. You can actually study that.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: Factual history?

FRED NILE: There are documents, there are historical documents, that show that. It’s not a myth.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS: That show what: that he existed or he is the son of God?

FRED NILE: That he existed and how he was born and so on.