Dropkick me, Jesus, through life’s goal posts
With CEO Andrew Thorburn stepping down after one day, the turmoil at Essendon Football Club could prove life-saving, writes Alan Austin.
“…this is a very gravely troubling moment in Australia’s cultural history. Essendon Football Club has effectively declared itself an anti-Christian organisation.”
Sheridan’s absurd anger was provoked when Andre Thorburnwho started work as chief executive of Essendon Football Club on Monday, resigned on Tuesday. This followed the discovery that the former NAB boss was also the leader of a church which vehemently condemns abortion and same-sex relationships.
Passionate Essendon football fan Dan Andrewswho is also the Premier of Victoria, shirtless Thorburn on Tuesday, to affirm that the teachings of his church were “absolutely appalling”to add, “This kind of intolerance and hatred is just wrong”.
This will cause short-term anguish within the football club, within the Victorian sporting community in general, within the Christian community and, in particular, within the Church of Thorburn, city on a hill. But if the destructive nonsense taught by this group and others is exposed and debunked, it will ultimately strike a heavy blow for Christian faith, religious tolerance, and community safety and well-being.
Abortion in Judeo-Christian texts
Two passages of Scripture that Christians, Jews, and others consider authoritative refer to the killing of a fetus. Neither supports the view – forcefully proclaimed at Thorburn Church – that a fetus is sacred human life and that abortion is murder.
According to the teaching in ‘Exodus‘, violent acts that cause the death of a pregnant mother require the death penalty. But, if these acts kill the unborn baby, not the mother, the penalty is a fine.
Even clearer, teaching in ‘Numbers‘ describes the abortion procedure when the pregnancy results from rape, adultery or other exceptional circumstances.
When does life begin?
All scriptural passages that deal with the beginning of human life associate it with the first breath. Each.
‘Genesis 2:7‘ orders:
‘Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’
More than 30 texts linking life to breathing. None suggests that sacred life begins at conception.
Bible-believing Christians therefore have the choice between three possible positions: first, that the sacred life begins when breathing begins. Second, life begins when the fetus has developed to the point where it is able to breathe outside the womb. (This accepts the Bible live of Elizabeth’s unborn baby who ‘jumped into her belly’ when Elizabeth met Mary who was pregnant with Jesus – a pivotal moment for some anti-abortion activists.)
Or, third, we don’t really know for sure and so should leave the medical questions to women and their doctors.
Sexual orientation – the reform of our time
The struggle within religious communities to accept same-sex unions as having the same validity and divine approval as heterosexual unions has been the greatest area of religious reform in the past half-century. There’s still a long way to go, but the progressives are kicking in with a strong breeze.
Most mainstream Christian denominations in the United States, Britain, Australia and Europe now accept gays and lesbians as members and leaders. The number is expansion every year.
This, again, is because Scripture properly interpreted is on the side of inclusiveness. Many – most? – Judeo-Christian scholars, teachers, ministers and congregations now understand that the five scriptural passages that condemn homosexual behavior refer to coercive and abusive homosexual activity, not loving and faithful unions.
It is increasingly understood that same-sex unions approved appear throughout the biblical record and that the Christian church has historically often blessed same-sex marriages.
Calls to condemn social evils
Ancient Jewish prophets denounced prevailing social ills. So did Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples. These were almost always for economic purposes. exploitation — generally of the poor by the rich.
There is little or no biblical justification for publicly condemning individuals’ sexual or medical decisions. In fact, a distinction between the disciples of Jesus and the hypocrites Pharisees – the good guys and the bad guys in the gospels – arose when the Pharisees wanted Jesus to condemn a woman caught in adultery, a capital crime at the time. His answer – “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone…” – has become a proverb beyond Christianity.
If this Essendon saga expands the community’s understanding that most religious people aren’t bigoted intruders in the struggles of others, it will strengthen the team. While this encourages religious people to get back to basics and be more tolerant, it will also add pressure to the scoreboard.
As for the Greg Sheridans and Andrew Thorburn of this world, they seem locked into a self-righteous position. But there is still hope.
“Right in the heart of these just rights,
Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life.
This would sound closer to the club song of Essendon today than to that of some churches.
Alan Austin is an Australian freelance columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001. Alan was a board member of the Evangelical Alliance of Victoria in the 80s and 90s. He is now a practicing Anglican in Europe.
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