On Monday a nun was arrested here in Australia. That’s right, a nun. She was one of a crowd of Christian leaders who engaged in nonviolent sit-ins at the electorate offices of Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott. This is the latest #LoveMakesAWay action protesting indefinite imprisonment of children in our immigration detention centers. When nuns are cranky at this bipartisan brutality, its fair to say something is gravely wrong.
It was a candid moment with the BBC. Malcolm Turnbull let slip what a lot of decent Australians are thinking, not just placard-waving radicals with witty twitter handles, but families with mortgages who ferry their kids to weekend sport. ‘I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with any policies relating to border protection’ he said. Malcolm is a team player, so he’s never going to come right out and say it. But nuns will. Desperate people are coming to us seeking safety from persecution, and the way we treat them is wrong.
There’s a long history of nonviolent protest in Christianity, but the average church leader doesn’t actually break the law in this country. Australian Christianity has typically been a religion for the Prefect class — a good way to get a scholarship and be recruited by the right firm. There’s even a new breed of Christian trying to convince people that they are cool. But all the Celtic cross tattoos and nasal piercings in the world can’t hide the fact that Christianity is daggy.
Take Father Chris for example. Every Sunday he gets up and goes to church. And its not even one of those hip churches where absurdly attractive pop-singer types croon away on stage while the audience mentally scans the surrounding throng, categorizing people based on their eligibility for marriage.
Jarrod McKenna has dreadlocks and drives a Prius. Wil Anderson said ‘While I’m not a believer, Jarrod is the kind of god-botherer I enjoyed being bothered by.’ But nobody is buying it. All the self-conscious beards in the world can’t mask the fact that his favorite activities are Bible studies. He’s wearing a cardigan and skinny jeans, but he’s wearing them to a prayer meeting.
Peter Barney is a pastor at a megachurch. His kids are unimpressed. His wife makes all his clothing choices. Dag.
It doesn’t matter how many ironic piano accordions are added to the worship band, even the funky churches are lame. Totez lame. Dagginess is our secret weapon, and we are not afraid to use it.
When a rabble of reverends and a pack of pastors start provoking politicians, you’ve got to ask two questions. Firstly, was there too much alliteration in the preceding sentence? Secondly, what has got us all riled up?
Well, there’s no doubting that Christians love kids. (That was the cue for some wag to make an entirely original joke about pedophile priests). Churches let babies in before they have even proven their net benefit to the organization. There are plenty of kids who will go to bed tonight with a full tummy and a warm bed because Christians have helped out. (That was the cue for an armchair philosopher to quip that you can be ‘good without God.’ Get it out of your system now, folks, there’s work to do). We seem to have this inexplicable concern for children who have never so much as vomited on our shoe.
The thought of more than a thousand little blighters locked up by our own government is just the thing to make us get up off our pew. We didn’t start with sit-ins of course. We’re far too polite. There have been letters and discreet conversations, petitions and talkfests, research projects, rallies in the streets, and sermons. We’ve fed and clothed and housed asylum seekers that few care about, and we’ve argued for more foreign aid and better regional partnerships. We’ve offered our facilities and homes to provide a more humane living environment, and we’ve harnessed our media machine to advocate for common decency. For more than a decade, since the dehumanizing began, we’ve been on the case. We actually enjoy this work, that’s how daggy we are. Yet political leaders of every stripe have laughed and have not given us so much as an “amen.”
That was unwise. Because now we’re all fired up. Cranky Christians aren’t going to burn your office down. We’re going to come and sit in it and pray. And awkwardly sing. And we’ll be super polite and thank the staff as the police take us away. Then we’ll show up to court in mismatched suits and make friends with the bailiffs. If you fine us, we’ll pay on time. And we’ll pray like crazy, and so will a thousand women named Doreen.
Oh, and we’re tenacious. We persist in believing in the resurrection, even when Richard Dawkins tells us we’re idiots. So this is child’s play for us. Once we latch on to something, we don’t let go until you kill us. And for every one of us you kill, a dozen dags rise up in our place.
God told us to “let my people go” from Immigration Detention Centres. So that’s what we’re going to do. Even though our government is saying ‘no way’ we believe that Love Makes A Way.
So our advice is to let the kids out now. Because we are powered by the Holy Spirit, and egg sandwiches cut into quarters. We have an infinite supply of both, and we are not giving up.
Peter Barney is Children ’s Pastor at Riverview Church. @peterdbarney
They will all face court on 28 May for participating in the Perth #LoveMakesAWay nonviolent sit-in at the electorate office of Julie Bishop MP.
Image: Sit-in prayer vigil for asylum seekers, at Tony Abbott's Sydney office, via Love Makes A Way on Flickr.