Did you happen to see Madonna’s ‘tribute’ speech to Aretha Franklin at this year’s MTV music awards? The reason I put the word ‘tribute’ in adverted commas is because the speech Madonna gave was essentially about Madonna. In fact, the ABC reported that “it made no mention of Franklin’s own career… but her lengthy speech focused mostly on her own early career.” As one observer tweeted:
All of which has an uncanny parallel to a feature length article sub-titled, Blowback: the priest who dared to share his social justice message, in this week’s Weekend Australian by Father Rod Bower, an Anglican Priest in Gosford. Like Madonna, Bower wrote 2,350 turgid words speaking almost entirely about himself. But what was missing from his shameless piece of self-promotion—and don’t forget that he also has a book that is just about to be published—is that he never mentions the name of Jesus, not even once. Which is surprising, don’t you think, especially from someone whose task it is to represent Christ on earth. Instead, Bower describes his focus as follows:
It seemed sensible to focus attention on asylum seekers, indigenous rights, climate change and marriage equality. These were the things I wanted to open up conversations about because I believed they were issues that reflected the health of our corporate soul. They were sacramental in a sense, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.
Bower rose to fame in 2013 when he posted on a roadside sign outside the church the message: DEAR CHRISTIANS. SOME PPL ARE GAY. GET OVER IT. LOVE GOD. He also posted it on Facebook where it has now been viewed some 70 million times.
After tasting social media success for his stance on marriage redefinition—and contradicting two thousand years of Christian teaching on the subject—Bower then proceeded to actively champion the cause of Halal Certification. Bower states:
In early November 2014, the media reported that a small South Australian business, Fleurieu Milk Company, chose to end its $50,000-per-annum yoghurt supply deal with Emirates Airlines because of a large number of abusive responses from people who claimed Halal certification fees were being used to fund terrorism. The spokesperson leading this actual act of terrorism against Fleurieu on the anti-Halal website Halal Choices was of course unable to substantiate her claims. Appalled by this gross act of bullying, we put up this sign with accompanying commentary:
BOYCOTT THE BIGOTS AND BULLIES. BUY HALAL
This is not about Halal. This is about living in a civil society. We must stand up against bigotry and prejudice. A South Australian dairy company has been bullied out of a contract by the “boycott halal” people. We call upon everyone who desires to live in a peaceful, harmonious multicultural society to speak out against this bullying by the Islamophobic lobby.
Bower seems to be somewhat selective in his confected outrage. Apparently, he has forgotten that this is exactly what the LGBTIQ lobby did in relation to Coopers Brewery when it sponsored a debate on same-sex marriage.
Regardless, the unnamed person behind Halal Choices is Kirralie Smith, a former Australian LibertyAlliance candidate now with the Australian Conservatives. Her response to Bower was unequivocal:
I don’t call for boycotts. I call for choice. Go to www.facebook.com/HalalChoices and search Fleurieu – there are tons of posts and not once did I can for a boycott. I call for choice.
And as for the claim regarding terrorism Smith responded:
I don’t state Halal funds terror in Australia. I have quoted facts from USA, France and Canada where that has been proven and I ask where does the money go. I have often asked the question, however, as to whether Halal funds do end up in the hands of terrorists because AUSTRAC and the Australian Institute of Criminology both claim Islamic Charities are one of the three main conduits for funding terror.
However, for Bower to accuse Halal Choices of having committed “an actual act of terrorism” is an extremely serious charge to make. There is no doubt that Bower is extremely popular. However, this doesn’t mean that he is right, even if he does currently have a job as a priest in an Anglican church in the Diocese of Newcastle.
All of which would suggest that Bower is more of a leftist blowhard than a victim of conservative blowback. As Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21) What’s more, he also went on to say, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets”. (Luke 6:26)
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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