The King James Version of the Bible in Mark 2:4 says that the people could not get near (or ‘come nigh to’) Jesus because of ‘the press’, which, of course, was referring to the crowd (as in the ESV). Nevertheless, the KJV translation provided a good introduction for C. S. Lewis to venture some cogent criticisms of the newspapers of his day. People could not see Jesus because of the press – to which we might add other offenders such as social media. In 1948 Lewis wrote with both vigour and humour: ‘I wouldn’t hang a dog on a journalist’s evidence myself.’ Times move on, but they do not always change.
What follows is a tale of two rallies, both occurring in late March 2023, one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney. At the Melbourne rally Posie Parker addressed a ‘Let Women Speak’ crowd. The evangelical Christian Member of the Victorian Parliament, Moira Deeming, also spoke in a speech which included her reading out the concerns of a Muslim friend. The increasing press – if I can use the word – for runaway transgenderism has had obvious effects on women’s sports, amenities and clubs. At the same time there is an abject kowtowing to the drag queen industry – coming to a children’s library near you. At this Melbourne rally some uninvited Neo-Nazis turned up, and this provided a wonderful opportunity for the media at large and obsequious politicians to express their moral outrage at Mrs Deeming. A spineless Liberal Party proceeded to suspend her for nine months after its leader, John Pesutto, had first threatened to expel her.
The other rally took place in Hyde Park, Sydney. The speakers included Christians and Muslims, and the topics were not dissimilar to the Melbourne rally. There were calls to remove the teaching of sexual orientation and gender fluidity from the public school system, and to condemn the introduction of drag queens to children. Nor does that conclude the similarities. About halfway through proceedings, a group of Neo-Nazis appeared – again, uninvited – and one of them marched towards the LGBTQI+ area, until the police approached him. A Muslim participant commented that he was not sure exactly what happened, but the police appeared to push him away from the crowd.
The first and obvious point in all this concerns how the media treated the two rallies. The Melbourne rally brought out the usual performing seals, who were keen to link Mrs Deeming to Nazism – despite the fact that her Jewish uncle, who survived the Holocaust, helped to raise her as a child. Yet the Sydney rally was greeted by media silence. No performances from Mr Albanese or Mr Dreyfus, and none by their supposed opponents among the Liberal Party. Just silence.
One does not have to lie in order to mislead. Adam shifted the blame onto Eve, and even God, without actually uttering a syllable of untruth (Gen.3:12). Silence can achieve the same outcome as lying, or at least it can try to. A few weeks later, Senator Lidia Thorpe was banned from a Melbourne strip club after a foul-mouthed and obnoxious early morning rant. Banned from a strip club, but no talk of any censure from the Parliament. Who has the higher standards?
We are being preyed upon by charlatans, and manipulated by the media. Actually, the problem is far worse than that. It is not the media as such, but the general populace. The media, by and large, reflect the lazy thinking and false paradigms of society. If we could locate our ills in a sector of society – the media, the politicians, the public service, the education system, the unions, the big corporations, or some other culprits – it would be easier to do something about it. We could send them to re-education camps or fine them.
The truth is that we are being manipulated because we want to be. It is too easy to adopt the stance of a victim, and lay the blame on a scapegoat. Mrs Deeming is not likely to bite back; Ms Thorpe is. Transgenderism is the latest fad; biblical sexual ethics are the latest danger. Peter writes of ‘preparing your minds for action’ or ‘girding up the loins of your mind’ (1 Pet.1:13). Be aware; know the enemy of our souls and the fallenness of all humanity, including us; and ‘set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (1 Pet.1:13).
With warm regards in Christ,
Rev. Dr Peter Barnes,
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Australia