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Should I Consult Christian Leaders before I Berate Them?
My conscience has been prodded by a reader who has taken me to task over a commentary I posted last November, attacking Rev Fred Nile for his comments on Muslims and illegal migrants.
This reader has made some good points. For example, he drew attention to a quote in my piece, from Sydney Morning Herald commentator Paul Sheehan:
The curse of dogma has touched Australia only lightly and thus the curse of political instability has passed us by. We have never been afflicted with the extremes of corporatism or communism or any of the isms in between. We don't trust God much, either. Australia's place as one of the world's most durable, stable, prosperous and open democracies has been built by the victory of pragmatism over ideology.
And he commented:
Maybe I'm missing something here, but I fail to see the point of a Christian (apparently favourably) quoting a commentator who claims that Australia's lack of political instability is due (in part) to not trusting God much! And I don't agree with him on a lack of dogma; Australia has plenty of atheistic dogma to go around.
Yes, fair point. He also noted that I had quoted the BBC, concerning comments by Rev. Nile on the wearing of traditional dress by Muslim women in Australia, and he wrote:
Why a Christian would quote a secular media report on what another Christian said when the original is available is beyond me. The media cannot be trusted to be accurate in a lot of what they publish, and as they are mostly anti-Christian, this is particularly true with reporting Christian matters.
I agree. But what has really set me thinking was the reader’s final comment:
Did you privately contact Fred Nile to discuss your concerns before publicly berating him? If not, would you like to be publicly criticised by a fellow Christian without having the opportunity to discuss the issue privately?
No, I didn’t contact him. Should I have? Should we Christians consult our Christian brothers and sisters before publicly berating them?
I have felt discomfort when I have seen Christians use the secular media to attack fellow Christians. For example, why did Rev Tim Costello feel the need to write an article for the Sydney Morning Herald attacking Archbishop Peter Jensen and his brother Rev Phillip Jensen?
Another example: Peter Stokes of the Salt Shakers ministry often criticises “liberal” Christians in his newsletter. But why did he do so in a letter (not online) to The Age newspaper? Here’s a couple of bits of what he wrote:
Why is that so many Christians want to be nicer than Jesus?...It’s time for many Christians, including some ‘church leaders’, to find the true meaning of justice.
Indeed, Fred Nile isn’t the only Christian leader I’ve berated on this website. Another is Archbishop Peter Carnley, whom I didn’t contact either.
But these are two Christian leaders who have very consciously thrust themselves into the public arena. Few Australian Christians can have issued more media releases than Fred Nile. Perhaps only Peter Carnley comes close.
So I don’t feel uncomfortable about criticising their public pronouncements, here on my website (which attracts just a minuscule fraction of the numbers of readers who are exposed to these leaders’ press releases in the mainstream media).
Nevertheless, I’m starting to think that as a matter of courtesy I should have consulted them. What does anyone else think?
September 22nd, 2003