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Obadiah Slope goes digital: Mexican Popes, $10 tickets + the stories you may not have heard this week

Friday 19 February 2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 4.24.37 pmEternity’s newspaper columnist Obadiah Slope is branching into digital with a new weekly online column. Here, he’ll be commenting on what he’s observed in the news and in life. Enjoy.

MEXICAN POPE: Rather than sitting on the fence, Pope Francis has denounced Donald Trump for wanting to build a wall along the Mexican border – and to force the Mexicans to pay for it. “Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian,” the Pope told journalists.

He got applause from the right wing evangelicals who might have been thought to resent the Pope getting involved.

“I’ve written how Trump’s appeal is on a nativist, “Know-Nothing” platform, and Pope Francis correctly called him out for it,” wrote pundit Erick Erickson. Trump responded by calling the Pope a tool of the Mexican government.

WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT LAST TIME? Jerry Falwell Junior, right wing leader and son of an inventor of the “Christian right” responded to the Pope on CNN: “Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run a country.”

$10, SELLING FAST: The “Stop The Safe Schools Coalition” group on Facebook, which appears to be campaigning against the Safe Schools Coalition for promoting LGBTI activity to students, has urged people to buy the tickets to a same-sex student formal, to sell it out so that people can’t go. Which makes Obadiah think there must be some mistake. This exercise in sabotage has given the Safe Schools Coalition so much positive publicity and upped crowd-sourced funding so much that it has to be a fake site. Surely a bunch of Christians would not be so silly as to sabotage this LGBTI event?

NOT US: Obadiah checked. Although some media stories attempted to tie the Stop The Safe Schools Coalition Facebook page to the Australian Christian Lobby, the ACL’s Lyle Shelton told Obadiah firmly, and a little tersely, “It is not us. It has nothing to do with us”.

LATE NEWS: The “Stop the Safe Schools Coalition” group has responded to Obadiah’s enquiries, just after we posted this column.  “The ‘ticket buy’ was planned within a secret group with the intention to not buy tickets but announce publically we would knowing this was the best way to get publicity and successfully have The Safe Schools Coalition and the ‘resource’ web page it funds Minus18 exposed and removed from Australian schools. To clarify, we never brought any tickets the only ones brought were by the general public who saw the post and supported us without knowing our intention, most likely people in Victoria.”

They go on to assure Obadiah that they will go on opposing the safe schools Coalition. Still seems reasonable, Obadiah thinks, that this stunt of buying up tickets, was always going to be spun the other way. Who got the most sympathy? It is one of those cases where both sides might think they “won”.



While Obadiah keeps us entertained and questioning, close to home the same topics keep circling around us. Yet there is a whole wide world out there, and plenty of people have been telling interesting stories. Here’s Eternity’s picks of the week:

The real Jesus: For half her life, Lynn Wilder was a paid up member of the Mormon Church in the United States. Then when her son was sent home from his two year mission for “reading the New Testament,” her perfect Mormon life was interrupted. She and her husband put him on a plane out of Utah to avoid him being excommunicated. At the airport, Lynn writes, “Micah pleaded, ‘Mom and Dad, please read the New Testament.’ We commenced. As I read, I became increasingly consumed by reading about the God of grace. I barely ate or slept. It’s all I wanted to do […] I discovered this Jesus could not be confined by the laws and ordinances of a religion. Jesus is real. This palpable relationship transformed me.” Read Lynn’s story here.

Blessed: Kate Bowler, a 35-year old author and mother of one, writes about the irony of being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer only months after having spent 10 years researching and writing a book called Blessed, which charts the history of the American prosperity gospel. She says, “The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.” It’s a fascinating read. Have a look here.

#prayfordawkins: “Richard Dawkins has had a minor stroke, and though he says he is recovering well he sounded frail on a recorded message he posted. There’s been an outpouring of love for him from Christians I know, and the hashtag #prayfordawkins has sprung up on social media.” Want to know why? Find out here.

A different culture war: One of our Eternity writers is a bit addicted to everything written by David Brooks, and this piece from June 2015 still seems relevant: “Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution. Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose. Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness. We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through. Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society.” Well, could they?

“Come home Cardinal Pell”: Actor and comedian Tim Minchin released a controversial song this week, calling on Cardinal George Pell to return home and “face the music” at the Royal Commission. In an opinion piece for the Guardian, former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally writes, “Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. Cardinal Pell says there’s no way I could risk my health by flying business class to Australia.” Biting words, to be sure. But Australian Jesuit Priest and human rights lawyer, Frank Brennan has warned that Minchin’s four-minute gimmick could endanger the integrity of the Royal Commission.

Meanwhile, in the US: This month’s Washingtonian magazine follows sex abuse victims’ fight to have a conservative evangelical megachurch respond with grace to sad cases of child rape and other abuse. Read more here.

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