Australia is an absolutely beautiful country, and it wasn’t until I got back there (after more than a decade) that I realized how much I missed it. And being there again, about as far away from the United States as you can get, gave me new perspective on the perilous state of my own country.
I went “down under” again because a young woman that I had baptized as a teenager was getting married, and she had called to ask if I would officiate at her wedding ceremony. The request was wonderfully oblivious of my schedule and was borne of the deep relationship I have had with her and her family, who were part of Sojourners before returning to their native Australia. So I said yes, took the whole family, made it into a terrific spring break for my boys, with kangaroos and koalas, and agreed to launch the Australian version of my book God’s Politics at the same time.
What a wonderful 12 days—including a 25-hour journey each way with a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old! But wild kangaroos showing up at dusk every night of Easter weekend, outside our friend’s home in the country, made it worth the trip—along with all the reconnections made to the island continent.
Over the years, I’ve been to Australia many times, and the connections run deep. I remembered my very first visits, invited by a strong network of Christian communities (with wonderful names, such as the “House of the Gentle Bunyip”) who were vitally linking religious conviction with concrete action in the world on behalf of the poor and oppressed. I met powerful teachers such as Athol Gill, who insisted there was no credible belief in Jesus without following him in “radical discipleship.” Later I did a national speaking tour around the country, which began with an event hosted by some of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal leaders who gave me “permission” to speak in their country and presented me with an Aboriginal flag, a ceremony I found very moving.