On my Eternity News story being pulled

It is difficult to draw attention to the culture wars, and the danger they present, without being drawn into the culture wars as a combatant. I have watched in horror this week as the conversations about my piece spiralled further and further away from its conclusion; entrenching division rather than bringing people to the table in peace.

John and I have listened to the concerns raised by those I spoke about, and in the comments at Eternity, and around social media, and sought to clarify the link I attempted to draw between jokes about violence and potential acts of violence. In further consultation we have come to the position that this piece was simply best retracted, so that a slower, gentler conversation might take place about the significant issues here.

I accept that Dave Pellowe and Martyn Iles were joking and do not want to see a violent revolution (and have never doubted this), but I believe jokes and language about conflict and violence normalise conflict and violence, and worse, normalise seeing the ‘other’ as an opponent, not a neighbour.

I believe there is a link that can be drawn between jokes about violence, ‘war language,’ and potential acts of violence — a link that is clearly attested to in the United States. Many commentators in America — including conservatives Rod Dreher and David French made exactly these links around the January 6. 

It has saddened me to see this piece close off the opportunity for conversation with those advocating a ‘culture war’ agenda, and I must own that this is my responsibility for how I presented the piece — both in not being clear around the issues I took with the joke, not being clear to distinguish the point being made about the Church and State Summit, and the people on the platform at the summit who have a history of using such terminology, and not moderating my own ‘jokes’ that were lost in print. I must also own that there is a context in which my own words are interpreted, and that I have been critical of this approach to politics, and the engagement of the Australian Christian Lobby in particular for some time. My description of Martyn Iles as a golden-haired boy was a reference to the idiom of a figure, in a community, who can do no wrong. I bear Martyn no malice, and do not doubt the sincerity of his faith, or the faith of others mentioned.

My piece, though it spoke of Church and State, was prompted more by James Macpherson’s recent article and the heightened culture war posture and rhetoric of the site Caldron Pool. The Church and State Summit, and the reported comments, occurred against this background, with parallels to the CPAC conference held coincidentally in the United States.

One ‘good’ thing to have come from the conversation sparked by my post was fellow Brisbane resident Dave Pellowe taking up the challenge of my piece’s conclusion, and reaching across the divide to form a friendship and to have face to face conversation. We met yesterday and hope to publish further reflections on our meeting soon. After I met with Dave, and heard how my comment about Martyn (which are part of a pattern of my comments about Martyn when writing about his public persona) was received, and how it undermined my piece, I posted a public apology yesterday on my own Facebook profile. I make that apology again here, and now. Not for the overall substance of my piece, but for the way I spoke jokingly, or idiomatically, about a brother in Christ. I will endeavour to do better, while maintaining my conviction that pragmatism, or a utilitarian approach to power-based politics, when coupled with a hard-right agenda and a ‘culture war’ narrative is dangerous to both society, and our witness as the church.

In the meantime, I am happy for my piece to be pulled from Eternity’s pages in order to encourage more peace and reconciliation within the body of Christ, and more robust conversations about genuine political convictions, and the dangers of warlike metaphors in more relational environments where tone is not lost, and the humanity of the other is inescapable. Eternity will be publishing its own statement shortly.


Christine Platt says:

Thanks Nathan for this blog. In interacting with you on the Eternity site I came to the conclusion that you just couldn’t or wouldn’t see what you had written and the impact it had.
I find your problem with talking about war interesting. I look at the Bible and being a soldier engaged in spiritual warfare is a pretty common theme.
We are in a war. Our enemies are not of flesh and blood but they are very real. Look at Ephesians 6 and all of Revelation. One of the ways I see myself is as a soldier, fighting the good fight, with the objective of winning (Jesus won and he died on the cross).
Look at the old hymns. Onward Christian soldier is not alone as picturing us as the Lords army.
I must say that as I look around and see increasing chaos around the world, as hear of my friends facing incredible opposition in Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan, Myanmar and wonder at their courage in the face of it, I have no doubt the we are in a war and we need to fight with all we have using our spiritual armour and weapons.
And so I hear your concerns and I can understand, sort of, but my view of warfare is biblical I think – it’s language I use and I think with good reason.
One problem we have in the materialistic west is that we are effectively oblivious to the spiritual realm – a realm that the Bible presents as real.

Jill England says:

Good on you, Nathan. I’m wondering if you’ve heard this speech by New York journalist, David Brooks, who was awarded Calvin University’s 2020 Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Faith and Public Life. I’ve listened to the speech twice now – David Brooks has some very pertinent observations about how, in the last few decades, politics has intruded into (and often taken over) almost every aspect of our cultural/social/public life, negatively impacting our ability to really see and know each other deeply. This is the link: https://apac01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fyoutu.be%2Ff6iCz8w90x4&data=04%7C01%7C%7C788c81748a474445f56e08d8e47d4874%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637510574020785013%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=teiIUXczflJE3Fut1JMM8r1lv8ylWU9jcWakLDEkCTQ%3D&reserved=0

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