The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia on December 12, 1994 · Page 11
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia · Page 11

Sydney, New South Wales, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Monday, December 12, 1994
Page 11
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The Sydney Morning Herald AGENDA Monday, December 12, 1994 I I O ma ' "HE Rev Fred Nile NSW MLC, Uniting Church minister, morals campaigner and, most recently, newspaper editor-in-chief, is breathing scepticism down the phone. The Herald has just told him that a rival evangelical Christian political lobby group, which fell from grace but has now been born again in Canberra, is about to start its own newspaper with a planned circulation of 50,000. "So they say," hurumphs Nile, whose Family World News has a Christmas issue circulation of 11,000. Christian lobbyists exaggerat- There is a term, in the United States 'evangelistically speaking . Commandment-keeping evangelists, says Nile, have been known to tell fibs saying they had 2,000 at a meeting yielding 1,000 converts, when the true figures are 1,000 attending and 100 converting. The numbers of fundamentalist followers in the United States are huge and organised. Serviced by cable TV empires, a legion of self-appointed saviours and lots of money, their churches are wielding increasing political power. Last month's landslide capture of Congress by their favoured party, the Republicans, both demonstrated and enhanced their political sway. In Australia, the evangelists, as they prefer to be called (fundamentalism has become "a swear word", says Nile), have tended to be seen as political out-riders with quaint moral views. But evangelism is on the rise here. As churchgoers flock to the newer churches and mainstream churches split and strain under its influence within their own ranks, the question arises: are we about to head down the American route? On Friday, Queensland National Senator Ron Boswell crossed the floor and became the second (after Liberal MP Chris Miles) to lose his spot in the shadow ministry through exercising his Christian conscience over the sexual privacy bill. The airwaves were full of claims of the churches being united in their opposition to the legislation. It would be a mistake, however, to lump all elements in the churches together with evangelicals who are against the bill because of its homosexual implications. Mainstream churches, points out Democrat Senator John Woodley, like Nile a Uniting Church Minister, have concentrated their concern on the bill's potential to have "unforeseen consequences on laws relating to incest, pornography and abortion". "They have stayed away from the debate about homosexuality itself, with the result that most of the comment on this aspect which purports to be Christian has come from the more , fundamentalist groups." Why? The evangelical groups are for the clean-cut. Their way to God is through plain frugality, honesty, the nuclear family, the individual, and the abhorrence of abortion and homosexuality, Jesus on their side, a new class of Christians is aiming for clout in Canberra. DEBRA J0PS0N reports on the evangelical movement's push into politics. according to retired academic Professor Hans Mol, himself an occasional Presbyterian preacher, who has studied the sociology of religion here for some 30 years. Likewise, they want clear-cut norms: evangelists favour "oversimplified" views and "feel threatened by too much change", says Professor Mol. Another academic has an uhkinder view of the publicly outraged: "The people who are most morally outspoken could be the ones who have the most problems in terms of their own morality. A lot say these moral crusaders are really talking about their own problems." The same stances on sexuality that often distinguish evangelicals from mainstream churches also cause fractures within the new movement. Queensland religious historian Neville Buch warns that 6 Australians have been described as "wallowing in such 'isms' as hedonism, paganism, capitalism and humanism". within the hundreds of thousands of Australian evangelicals, there are great divergences of opinion. Those emphasising the supernatural might see a homosexual coming to their church as being possessed by a spirit and try to bring the person to "normality" with a laying on of hands. Others may simply pray and persuade to try to purge the sin. EVANGELICALS here are increasingly coming to the view that they have to be "socially responsible" and stand up publicly for their values, according to Professor Mol. That means political action. There is some evidence that if the evangelicals wanted to flex some political muscle, they could "get the numbers". The chairman of the Australian Pentecostal Ministers' Fellowship, Dr David Cartledge, says that in 15 years the charismatic Assemblies of God has grown from 9,000 to over 100,000 regular worshippers - and from 150 to 800 churches.- Churches within the fellowship, which have sprung up in the past 20 years, include, he says, the Christian Outreach Centres (150), the Four-Square, Apostolic and Christian City churches, and the Christian Revival Crusade. Evangelists are firmly in control of the Presbyterian Church where hopefuls for women's ordination and homosexual rights this year received another rebuff. The Anglican archdiocese of Sydney is also deeply in the evangelical camp. The celebration-plus-brimstone style of evangelist worship isparti-cularly attracting younger Australians. The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Rev Harry Goodhew, told his Diocese's Synod recently that "denomination hopping" is now common among young church-goers, with the big winners being the Pentecostal churches (now 15 per cent of all worshippers) and the losers being Anglicans, who have dwindled to 27 per cent. The message for those with young congregations, he suggested, may be to toss out some of the formality. He says many like himself have been stirred to political action through being involved in the Christian schools movement. The Uniting Church has just resigned from the NSW Council of Churches because, according to an informed source, the evangelicals have taken it over. The president of the council, which opposes the sexual privacy bill and funding for Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras, the Rev Barry George, has described Australians as "wallowing in such 'isms' as hedonism, paganism, Capitalism and humanism". A board member of the Network for Christian Values (NCV Inc, the group planning to launch the new newspaper, The Alternative, in February), Pastor Peter Carblis, packs 600 into his Gos-ford Christian Centre on Sundays. In Canberra, the NCV has claimed the spotlight with its lobbying against the sexual privacy bill for the newer churches, including the Assemblies of God. . NCV is new, and not new. Its national director, Derek Brown, was also the national co-ordinator of the Logos Foundation, which had to sell up its Toowoomba headquarters in the wake of a sex scandal. Logos's most successful politicking was done during the 1989 Queensland election campaign, when it managed to catapult homosexuality and morality issues to the top of the public agenda. It tumbled from that pinnacle soon after when its married executive director and founder, the Rev Howard Carter, was disgraced through being publicly exposed for an affair with a young (female) follower. Now Brown, and at least one other who was involved in Logos - Pastor Paul O'Sullivan of the Northern Beaches Christian Centre at Terrey Hills are seeking political influence through the Canberra-based NCV. The move concerned Senator Woodley, who late last year told the Senate that Logos and NCV were linked with the Foundation for the Advancement of Christian Studies, a US-based movement which is "ultra-Calvinist and exclusive". The NCV denied in a letter to Senator Woodley that it was either ultra-Calvinistic or right-wing. Brown told the Herald he no longer adhered to the extreme views Logos held and now took a "more balanced, Christian, mid-dle-of-the road" approach. But which road? NCV lobbyist John McNicol trumpeted in a media release in October, "A Christian Right is emerging with marked growth and this is not a radical fringe group, but people with a deep religious faith." The evangelists, as Nile pointed out, like to talk big. And that includes himself. Nile whose publications are full of pictures of himself and his fellow MLC, wife, Elaine with luminaries, including the Pope and Mother Teresa, told the Herald he is in huge demand and speaks at three to four churches weekly, often with 500 attending. Followers of Fred Nile's movements will remember that late last year he appeared in Parliament in his pyjamas (with broken ribs) to fight Independent MP Clover Moore's Homosexual Vilification Bill, and he recently introduced his own bill aimed at stopping vilification of heterosexuals. But how good are the evangelists at politics? Not very, it seems. The evangelists here are splintered to a fault. Nile describes NCV as "a small group". McNicol said he didn't know Mr Nile, but believed he and his Festival of Light campaigned on a single issue homosexuality. Cartledge says that although his fellowship took up NCV's offer to lobby (for free) on its behalf on the sexual privacy bill, he doesn't envisage a widespread rise in political action. It is, he says, up to individuals to stand up as citizens. Becoming politically active poses a dilemma for evangelists, who usually play the role of "standing against society," explains Professor Mol. One of evangelism's great attractions to followers is its "clarity"; its spelling things out in black and white. But moving into politics means grappling with grey areas, he says. Two politicians of the Christian right have now lost their spots in the shadow ministry over the individual stances on the sexual privacy Bill. Other Federal politicians' willingness to bend on the sexual privacy bill can be attributed to the lobbying of the mainstream churches, particularly the Catholic bishops. Even the frenzied letter-writing campaigns have had little effect on the works of the devil here. When ABC TV received about 6,000 letters, protesting against a documentary on the Gay Mardi Gras, it handed them to the Professor of business and politics at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Ian Marsh, for analysis. His conclusion: there had been an orchestrated campaign by several fundamentalist groups, rather than a range of disgruntled viewers. The parade went on, to television screens in family homes around the country. Sorry, Fred. You can send feedback on Agenda issues to editor Lauren Martin via the poet or the Internet. E-mail at Imar-tin IIMMW,...",!!.!'. .. l"'" " iff ?f 1m$ - 33&CSS& fvs A black-and-white case of gender offending t -JZ W I RELATIONS MR Lundmark, your work disturbs me. It disturbs me a lot. Your cartoon illustrations are completely unsuitable for our purposes." "Unsuitable? You don't like the style?" "Oh no-no-no. Everybody loves your cartoons." "You don't like the humour?" "No, the humour is spot on. We laughed all "through the production meeting." "So what's wrong with my work?" "Oh nothing, nothing at all. We absolutely adore it. There is not a thing wrong with your work, apart from being totally unusable." "But why?" "Well, at first your cartoons seemed terrific. Until we started gender-counting." "Gender-counting?" "You had drawn 32 males and only 27 females in the series. How do you think that would sit with our clients, Mr Lundmark?" "Well, I'm not sure that people would bother to count heads . . ." "We don't want to tread on anyone's toes. This sexual maldistribution problem got my suspicion aroused, and I started to examine your work according to protocol." "Protocol?" "Our editor's checklist. Affirmative action, sexual misrepresentation, racial vilification, that sort of thing. Did you know you had drawn 62 per cent of men looking happy, while only 34 per cent of women were smiling? Do you think that reflects reality, Mr Lundmark?" "Well, not all people are happy all the time . . ." "And then we come to ethnicity. All of your cartoon figures look vaguely Anglo-Saxon." "But I made them vague so they could be perceived as belonging to any race." "They're not vague enough. They're also not distinct enough: I couldn't find a single distinctly Asian, African, Arab, or Mediterranean face." "Well, how far do I go? Filipinos? Himalayas? Inuit? Hottentots? Falkland Islanders?" "Let's say you draw the line at the Inuit For now. Ill check with protocol and get back to you." "Anything else?" "Yes, there's the question of age discrimination. There aren't enough older-looking people. Then again, there aren't enough younger-looking ones, either." "I think I see what you're getting at You want to include everyone." "Wrong. What we don't want to do is to exclude anyone. Which brings me to the matter of dexterous preference: all your cartoon characters are using their right hands. Didn't you know that eight per cent of the population are left-handed?" "I'll keep that in mind. What about freckles?" "Freckles, oh yes. Put them in. But don't go overboard." "And balding people? Amputees?" "Certainly. In good measure." "Blind, persons? People with warts and bunions? Moles and tinea and stained teeth?" "Absolutely." "Colostomy bags?" "Ah! Thank you! Must have missed that one. Oh, and don't forget: some of the amputees should have freckles, some of the balding ones should be left-handed, and so on." "This is absurd." "Mr Lundmark, we can't afford to leave anyone out. We dont want to upset people. Everyone has a right to be in our publication." "But does that mean that you have to feature every single individual trait?" "How else would people recognise themselves?" "Maybe you should use stick figures instead." "Stick figures . . . hmmm ... I like the sound of it. Tell me more." "With stick figures, you couldn't tell genders apart Nor could you determine age, race, religion, occupation, status and so on. It would just be bland and lifeless. No women, no men, no ethnicity, no diversity, no ..." "... no conflict Hmmm, I like the idea." "Or we could do away with the people altogether and simply use diagrams and graphs." "Sounds very attractive. On the surface. Getting rid of the people altogether how creative. Good idea . . . but it wouldn't work." "Why?" "Because we're a people industry. Don't forget, Mr Lundmark, our business is all about people. Real people." TORBJORN LUNDMARK Contributions to the Relations column are welcome. Send to: Relations, Agenda, The Sydney Morning Herald, GPO Box 506. Sydney 200. L in 8 it, - Model illustrated with optional alloy wheels $3,000 WORTH OF EXTRAS FREE FOR A VERY LIMITED TIME. We think the Saab 9000 is one of the best value luxury cars on the market under $45,000. The NRMA agreed with us in 1992 and again in 1993. 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