After a nine month boycott of ABC’s Q&A, mostly due to the feeling it had lost its mojo, I stumbled upon it last night only to be pleasantly surprised.
Yes, the usual banal and pointless twitter feed was still there, and yes, Tony Jones still seemed to interrupt some unnecessarily and allow others seemingly eternal monologues, but sitting down the end of the panel I noticed John Dickson. I thought, “here we go, this will be interesting”. Many Australian Christians know of John through his work with The Centre for Public Christianity, and others in his former life as member of the band In the Silence.
I have been long frustrated why the Australian Media has a phobic-like aversion to any thorough and open discussion and exploration of Christian faith. For instance, if you were an extra terrestrial from planet Zukon who visited for a day, watched some ABC News, bought The Age newspaper and listened to some radio with John Faine or Philip Adams, you would most likely report back to the folk on Zukon the following details about your trip:
1. This group called the Catholic Church is a gathering of perverted men solely focused on abusing children, and their leader wears a funny hat and has been, according to all reports, “controversial”.
2. Only stupid and unreasonable people believe in a being known as God, while intelligent and brilliant types do not.
3. An outfit called Hillsong, another church group, makes millions and pays no taxes. And their pastor drives a machine called a Harley Davidson
4. The vast majority of Australians are secular atheists.
5. Point 4 must be true as none of these ‘Christians’ were ever seen or heard from in the media.
And so last night on Q&A, John Dickson gave a good voice for Jesus. There were the usual defamatory and offensive tweets like this one:
Lindsay (@KakLinds) 18/02/2013 22:57
#qanda Christians have special responsibility to save the world. Make a start by saving children from pedophile priests. #auspol
And Joe Hilderbrand, who is a very witty and entertaining media commentator, disappointed with this one:
Joe Hildebrand (@Joe_Hildebrand) 18/02/2013 21:55
The world’s most terrifying force has been revealed: A reasonable Christian. #qanda
Just delete “Christian” from that tweet and insert “woman” or an ethnic group to see how offensive it is. Joe, how about Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Bach, Handel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd, Prof Graeme Clarke, to name a few reasonable Christians?
Current ABC The Drum host, Julia Baird was more gracious:
@bairdjulia: A scientist and a theologian jousting respectfully, discussing ideas, even laughing. Well played Mr Krauss and @johnpauldickson. #qanda
As was Miranda Devine, and she always courageously defends faith in the public square:
@mirandadevine: @DavidvanGend yes he got a bit too much unquestioning adulation from the panel but @johnpauldickson gave a good account of himself #qanda
Australians really are nervous about religion. In fact, the whole media enterprise seems to be silently devoted to keeping Jesus out of sight out of mind. To be fair, the media are unfair and unreasonable to many other groups too; they only report the sensational, salacious, controversial and adversarial. And complex and intricate subjects must be forced through a filter of simplicity and entertainment. As Neil Postman warned many years back in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death,the electronic media is making us dumber and more passive.
With around 71% of Australians believing in God/gods/higher power, around 60% identifying as Christian, and around 2 million per week worshipping in churches, why shouldn’t there be more open and insightful public discussion of faith? Where are the editors, journalists and program directors with the courage, and integrity to open up airtime and print space for Christian leaders like John Dickson and others, to speak freely and openly about the faith of 1.5 billion of the earth’s inhabitants?
A liberal democratic society must be open and tolerant to all voices; yes, even Christian ones.
Good summary of the night here by Nathan Campbell