Easter is a time for reflection. Regardless of whether or not you’re a Christian, it’s an opportunity to take time out and assess your life and perhaps even express thanks for what you’ve been given. Obviously for Christians, it’s a time for us to stop and acknowledge the redeeming work of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
It’s generally a time for peace.
Last Sunday, a number of people took to the streets of Perth, apparently to rally in the name of peace. Unfortunately, what was spoken at that rally and subsequently published in the Fairfax press, was bile filled accusations at basically anyone one who wouldn’t choose to join such a march. Nope, not an off-the-wall extremist cleric calling for a holy war on Israel. This slander came from an apparent man of faith, Tim Winton, on behalf of the Justice4Refugees movement.
By Tim’s judgement, Palm Sunday was the perfect opportunity to vilify anyone with a differing political view on how to manage our borders and provide assistance to legitimate refugees.
Even more disturbingly, Winton started off his tirade talking about Jesus. Well, he actually misquoted Jesus from Luke 11:11 when Jesus is promising that God will give eternal salvation to all who ask: ‘And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? Or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent?’
He misquoted Jesus, because it fit with the argument he was about to launch into.
Winton opens by telling the crowd that they’re not there to celebrate the country we live in but rather that ‘…We’re here to reflect. To hold ourselves to account. We didn’t come here today to celebrate power or to hide in its privileged shadow. We’re here to speak for the powerless. We’re here to call a spade a spade…’
Sorry Tim, but you weren’t. You were there with a political agenda to condemn the government of the day for policies you disagree with and label anyone who dare dissent from your particular point of view as believing in ‘vicious, despicable nonsense’. Those of us who don’t agree with Tim are apparently collaborators in a society where, ‘…something foul is festering in the heart of our community, something shameful and rotten.’
There you go. Happy Easter. If you are one of those who lends any sympathy to the border protection policies of the current government you have something ‘shameful and rotten’ inside you.
According to Winton, it’s that we’re afraid of asylum seekers. It couldn’t be that we have actually used our intellect to assess all the possible practical policy alternatives on border protection and believe the current model works best. No, it’s because we have a ‘phobia’; the safety word used by those most desperate to push an ideology rather than engage in meaningful debate.
Of course from the outset and indeed throughout his entire piece, Winton offers no actual alternative. One can only assume from his lengthy rant that Australia should basically open our borders and let every boat destined for our shores, land.
And what of it? What if we let the boats come by the hundreds or thousands, as if by doing so we wouldn’t see a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. An open door policy where asylum seekers pay thousands of dollars to organised crime for a place on an unseaworthy vessel in an attempt to cross the treacherous Timor Sea.
If such a policy were introduced, upon whose hands would the blood lay for every person that drowns attempting the ocean crossing? Winton’s?
Or perhaps to avoid such an unsafe practice, the government should regulate the free transit of people seeking asylum in Australia. Of course to be fair, it would have to be orderly. Hang about. We already have such a system. That’s because Australia subscribes to and helps fund the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) whose mandate as outlined on their website is to ‘…strive to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and to find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.’
Instead of offering any real suggestions or alternatives, Winton’s piece descends into typical left-wing waffle, painting the whole issue as being as simple as a Dickensean tale of good versus evil.
Disregarding all the foul hyperbole – where Winton accuses anyone who agrees with the policies of the current federal government as holding the worth of beef cattle higher than the life of a child – there is a definite undercurrent contained in Winton’s speech that is as dangerous as it is insulting.
That is the notion that someone cannot claim to be a Christian if they disagree with Winton’s particular political view on the handling of asylum seekers; that if they agree with the current border protection regime, they are not really followers of Christ, but rather cowering bigots.
Seeing as Winton is not God (despite his standing with many lefties), this is an almighty insult to any follower of Jesus who has wrestled with this issue from a Biblical, moral and political perspective and come to a different conclusion.
For example, nowhere does Winton address the insidious and evil issue of people smuggling. This criminal enterprise is the modern day cousin of the slave trade of the 18th century. A trade where, as Winton himself puts it, ‘Asylum seekers are rendered as objects, creatures, cargo, contraband…’
A trade where people pay thousands of dollars to highly organised criminals to become cargo, shipped from one port to another. I truly believe that great Christian fighters like William Wilberforce, who stood up against the evils of the slave trade, would have been as ardent a supporter of destroying the people smuggling industry.
An unrestricted opening of our borders won’t stop people smuggling; it will only serve to boost their trade. It would see more people risking their lives on the open sea in boats that should long have been destroyed. It would see more money going to organised crime that oppresses rather than liberates.
No policy that excludes cutting out the cancer of people smuggling will have any impact in truly helping asylum seekers.
And as such, as a Christian, I disagree with Winton and believe his policy perspective is flawed.
Therefore, according to Winton, I am a person complicit with a brutal regime and have something foul, shameful and rotten festering inside me.
As if to emphasise this horrible theme running through Winton’s speech, he concludes by again misusing Jesus own words from Mark 8, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world only to lose his soul?’
Jesus was talking about surrendering our heart, soul and mind to God instead of to the world. He wasn’t talking about left-wing, geopolitical activism dressed up as faith.
Brad Emery is a freelance writer and attends Church by the Bridge Kirribilli.