Church leaders have hit out at Baptist minister and former World Vision head Tim Costello for “raucously” telling Christians who want religious freedom laws because they feel persecuted to “suck it up” and “calm down”.
Reverend Costello, who is now a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, drew fire for his comments, which downplayed the experience of Australian Christians in the context of the government’s investigation into religious freedom laws and Israel Folau’s sacking over homophobic Instagram posts referencing the Bible.
“I don’t think there is a risk of persecution — Christians need to calm down,” Reverend Costello said in an interview published on The Guardian website yesterday.
“I would say to Christians if you want to see persecution, let me take you to places where there is persecution of Christians and other religious groups — let me take you to Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, and I will show you persecution. And if they read their Bibles, Jesus said the world will hate you and misunderstand you for following me, but to go on following, loving, serving — so I would say, just suck it up.
“Jesus didn’t go around demanding legislation to protect his rights. Jesus didn’t advocate for freedom-of-religion legislation.”
A spokesman for the Centre for Public Christianity said Reverend Costello had been “trying to take a bit of the heat out of the discussion”.
But Bruce Meller, a minister and assembly clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, called the piece a “strident, raucous overstatement”. “The fact he says it shows that he doesn’t think other Christians are agreeing with him,” Reverend Meller said.
He said that while Reverend Costello was right to recognise the experience of Christians overseas, “negative discrimination is definitely being experienced here” and Australian Christians should be encouraged to speak up in the public debate around religious freedom laws. “This is the most important issue we face at the moment, and not just for Christians,’’ he said. “The climate has changed dramatically, and it is that change to which Christians are reacting.
“The atrocious assault on the Muslim community in Christchurch saw an outpouring of grief that was right and appropriate. But when 300 Christians were blown up in Sri Lanka shortly afterwards, the response was very muted by comparison. Christians are right to react to things like that … They are also entitled to speak up when societal pressure becomes increasingly hostile.’’
Michael Kellahan, executive director of Christian think tank Freedom for Faith, said while he understood the point Reverend Costello was trying to make by comparing Christians in Australia with those overseas, Christians needed to “beware of the speed at which things can change”.
“If Australia wants to be able to speak with credibility to places without freedoms we need to show that we take freedom for all people seriously here,” Mr Kellahan said. “I don’t think a comment like ‘suck it up’ stands well … there will probably be Christians who are disappointed to hear that.
“This is a time when all Australians need to stop throwing in quick-catch headlines and think about constructive ways to live together well. If Tim Costello wants to be part of that, we’d welcome that. But suggesting Christians shouldn’t be interested in religious freedoms protection is not a contribution to make.’’
Date-stamped: 2019 July 10 - Time-stamped: 12:00 am - By Elias Visontay - Article Title: Christians slam Costello’s advice to ‘suck it up’ - Article Link: theaustralian.com.au