Flat White

A new age of Christian persecution

Joel Agius

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Joel Agius

11 October 2022

11:00 AM

Centuries ago, in the early days of Christianity, those who chose to follow God and become Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs in the most terrifying ways. People were imprisoned, tortured, or even slaughtered. Many died for their faith and were martyred for following the teachings of Christ. Even Jesus Christ was crucified for nothing more than spreading the Word of God and teaching people how to live a good and decent life.

Ages have gone by, and Christians are still persecuted throughout the world for their faith by other faiths and the anti-faiths of collectivism. There are still countries where Christians are hunted down and killed for what they believe in, and that is an absolute blight on this world.

In Australia, and other similar Western nations, that type of violent persecution is not evident. Obviously, no one in Australia is being murdered for their faith in God. But there is another type of persecution that is occurring, and this one seems to be ramping up into something that could easily lead to dire repercussions for the Christian community in this nation.

On Monday, Essendon Football Club appointed a new CEO in Andrew Thorburn. He was clearly appointed based on merit and, as was later uncovered, his personal life and beliefs were not brought into question when he was interviewed for the position. 

But as soon as the mob found out that Thorburn was a Christian, outrage ensued. The mob began to go after him, attacking him for holding Christian views. Thorburn is also the Chair of the Movement Board of City on a Hill church. For the sake of clarification, City on a Hill is an Anglican church.

Deputy Mayor of Port Phillip Tim Baxter said that he would be resigning both his and his children’s Essendon FC memberships ‘due to the Essendon board’s decision to appoint the chair of a homophobic and anti-health care church to the position of CEO’, urging all others who ‘care about queer rights’ to do the same. 

Others also jumped on this, making it clear that Andrew Thorburn’s religious beliefs were intolerable and thereby rendered him the wrong man for the job.

By Tuesday, Thorburn resigned from the role, hounded out of a job by the incessant hateful rhetoric from anti-Christian bigots in the community who joined in.

And yes, that is how you use the term ‘bigot’ correctly, unlike those on social media who are throwing the term around loosely, so much so that it will probably lose its meaning by the end of the week.

Let me start by making something very clear – this is not about victimhood. This is, by all means, about the persecution of a Christian man in the West, by those who often preach tolerance no less.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Christian. It is common knowledge that Christians hold specific beliefs and values that include being against same-sex marriage and abortion. We are not the only ones who hold such beliefs. Muslims hold these same beliefs yet, curiously, the press is slow to criticise or cancel them for it. There is actually an AFLW player by the name of Haneen Zrieka who is sitting out ‘Pride Round’ due to her religious beliefs as a Muslim. But those same people screeching about Andrew Thorburn’s beliefs are deathly quiet on her behaviour.

What is truly appalling, however, are the comments from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. After Thorburn resigned from his new job, Andrews was asked about the subject by a reporter, who inquired as to whether religious people are unable to be employed in certain roles or if they should hide their religious beliefs for the sake of being employed. Andrews responded by saying this was not the case, but that Christians ‘should be more kind-hearted and inclusive’ following with ‘we’re all God’s children, aren’t we?’

For the record, Christians are extremely kind-hearted and inclusive. We invite people to come along and join our community no matter who they are. We live by our faith values of love, charity, and forgiveness, and do whatever we can to help those who might be struggling in this world. So those assertions the Premier makes are incredibly baseless.

But Dan Andrews has decided to continue down this path in what is probably one of the most bold and reckless moves he could possibly make in the lead-up to an election. He labelled Thorburn’s Christian views as ‘absolutely appalling’, ‘bigotry’, and ‘intolerant’. 

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli spoke to these comments on Thursday, telling the Herald Sun:

‘Such language pitches some members of the community against others and contributes to an unhelpful spirit of division.’

He is correct. The use of such loaded words and language can only serve to do more harm, stigmatising Christianity and demonising those who practice it.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Victorian Premier said the following:

‘I’m not here to be having a debate with faith leaders but I will just say this: I am a Catholic. I send my kids to Catholic schools. My faith is important to me. It guides me every day. It also guides me in my sense of what is right and what is wrong, and if I can just say with utmost respect, calling our homophobia is not the problem. Homophobia is the problem.’

He then proceeded to tell the press that he believes that all Victorians should be treated equally and fairly, saying, ‘For me, that’s my Catholicism. That’s my faith.’

This is the same man who, for two and a half years, stigmatised and actively discriminated against Victorians for not taking the vaccine. This is the same man who alienated them from society, demonising them and turning people against them. This is the same man who locked people down for months on end, turned people’s lives upside down, destroyed their businesses and livelihoods, causing them to go broke, and end up homeless. This is the same man who allowed the Victoria Police to terrorise Victorians for daring to criticise the government and their authoritarian response to Covid, who allowed rubber bullets to be fired on citizens who were peacefully protesting.

So forgive me if I do not for one second believe that this man is a true spiritual Catholic. He evidently has difficulty telling right from wrong. I couldn’t care less if he sends his kids to Catholic schools. Plenty of people who are not Catholics send their kids to Catholic schools. 

If Daniel Andrews was truly Catholic, if he lived by Catholic values, he would not have an issue with Andrew Thorburn nor his beliefs, nor his now quashed appointment as the CEO of Essendon. 

The President of Essendon admitted to this stating:

‘In interview processes [of selection], you’re not allowed to ask about people’s religious (beliefs). It’s against the law. But what we did, as soon as we saw them, we acted.’

One would easily be forgiven for thinking that being a Christian now jeopardises your employability. If what happened to Andrew Thorburn is anything to go by, it would seem that this is now becoming the case.

Persecution of Christians is seemingly becoming fashionable again. Anti-Christian bigotry is being paraded around as some warped sense of virtue. 

I think it is also important to point out that the persecution of Christians is not only occurring outside of the Church, but also within it. There are Catholics out there who hold more conservative and traditional views and values who are being chastised and excluded for their beliefs, many of whom are merely attempting to defend and preserve the teachings of the Catholic Church and, by extension, of Jesus Christ. It is a terrible shame that such intolerance is being displayed within the Church itself when there is already far too much contempt and intolerance for Catholics outside of the Church.

But on the subject of hatred towards Christians in society, it is ironic that people are getting upset over a hell they don’t even believe in. So too is their use of the term ‘bigot’ as some sort of insulting label for Christians when they themselves are exhibiting extremely bigoted behaviour.

For Daniel Andrews, this is a terrible PR move right before an election. He is alienating all those in the voting population of Victoria who are Christians and will likely suffer politically as a result. He will no doubt attempt to identify with the Christian community to win them back, as he is already doing by claiming to be a Catholic. But religious voters should be wary of these tactics. Andrews only seeks to serve himself politically. He is only concerned about winning another term in office, which would no doubt be a terrible outcome for the state of Victoria.

And while Christians will no doubt continue to be persecuted throughout society in many different ways, we should not allow it to discourage us from continuing to practice and share our faith with others. Christianity shaped the Western world. It helped to establish a culture of good morals and community. But there are now people who seek to shift the culture entirely to one devoid of morality. Such a culture enables some of the worst aspects of humanity to come to the forefront of society and take hold. It only leads to suffering. 

Christians must continue to be courageous and stand up for what they believe in, no matter what.

Joel Agius is an independent writer. If you would like to read more of his work, you can do so at JJ’s Outlookor keep up to date with his musings on Twitter.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Comment by Nelle-Indeed as hard as it is to survive in a secular world you just have to keep the faith and soldier on

Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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