Thursday, August 04, 2005

Prophet or Gossip?

I say this understanding that I may offend certain people and anger others, but I still think I need to say it.

John Smith is an amazing guy. He is a hero to many within the Australian church, and well should be. From all I have heard of the guy, he seems worthy of the title legend. However, at the FORGE national summit, I had a bit of a problem with the address he gave.

Let me first say that his address was perhaps one of the most inspirational, and well received of the weekend. I think I heard more comments about how moved they were by his message than any other message. This actually makes me a bit sad. Not sad that they like him, but sad that I missed it. Being involved with the planning and running of the conference I had much to do, and was forced to listen to John from the foyer, and watch on the big screen. After listening to the first thirty minutes, I simply found other things to keep me busy. If I was in the main hall I would not have walked out, but since my leaving would not upset anyone, I did leave.


Well for the first thirty minutes every other sentence was a critique on George Bush, or the American military. Those that know me well, might be laughing as they read this, as they know, I have no great love for the president, nor the current hostilities around the world. And in truth I agreed with just about everything John said. My issue was not with the content, but the purpose of the message. I have talked to other Americans there, and all three of them were a bit embarassed and offended. Again, I understand that offending people is par for the course if you are going to "tell the truth", but what was the purpose of this part of the message? There was nothing for anyone in that room to do about it! They could not vote George W out of office, they could not organize a march on the capital, they could not even call their local congresman. This message was spoken with no possible recourse.

I believe this was inappropriate. The prophets of our day must stand, and take a hard line against the corruption, immorality, and injustice of the government. And if John Smith said these things in America I would stand in the front row cheering. But to do this in Australia, was not prophetic, but gossip. It was not taking a stand, but rather taking pot shots at an easy target, that in this instance could not defend itself. This was like a profesional boxer beating up a fat overweigth sixty year old, but worse than that, it was like doing it by remote control.

Mr. Smith's comments were true, but unnecessary. They did not help his message, nor did they accomplish anything other than encouraging an anti American sentiment, which is already quite apparent atleast in Melbourne. And I for one am particularly upset, because they caused me to miss the heart of his message, which I most likely could have really used.

Now before you get too angry at me, my australian brothers, take some time to imagine the shoe on the other foot. Imagine sitting in a room full of American church planters and missionaries, and an iconic American gets up, and spends a half hour talking about how stupid, and unjust Australian policies are, bagging out the man that your country elected, and criticising the Australian military. Again, even if you agreed with what was said, it just doesn't seem right that someone else is saying it.

I remember as a kid, I was allowed to beat my little brothers. But if someone else touched them, then I got very upset. Perhaps, I am still a bit of a child.

the rev


Cherrypicker said...


Anonymous said...

Fair comment John. I hadn't considered it from that perspective and feel for you in that situation.

I too was disappointed in John Smith's message, but for other reasons. I had v high expectations and had hoped for something more relevant to the every day mission challenges us average people face. probably more like what Smithy experienced in his earlier ministry days. indulging in so much sharing of opinion was unfortunate i thought.

still, I appreciate the man is a hero to many and has perhaps earned the right to say what he wants.

thepanhandler said...

But Australians can do something. Australia's leaders have chosen to back and participate in this stupid reckless war. Australia's should stand up against that.
If the speech were given in France I'd say the French should stand up and make noise as member's of the European community.
The dangerous situation in Iraq is effecting everyone, especially countries like Australia and England who have decided to send troops. Everyone, everywhere should speek out and act out as much as possible as our world is made less and less stable.

The Rev said...


Obviously Australia could and should do something about their own involvement, and if he said that, there would be no problem from my end. That is not what was said however.

the rev

thepanhandler said...

Maybe I misunderstood what was said. I wasn't there.
I guess it's hard for me not to be in favor of someone bashing what my country is doing right now. I'm so furious about it, and I feel so disempowered and un-effective in trying to figure out how to stop it.

hamo said...

yeh - i can't say i have ever put the shoe on the other foot and tried to imagine what it'd be like.

i hear your point.

its kinda trendy and easy to give Bush a kicking.

then again smithy is one bloke wit enough 'runs on the board' to have some international cred.

hows your 'leggie?' :)

Digger said...

Yeah thats an interesting perspective mate. I think along similar lines-if you're not gonna do something, or don't have the oppurtunity to, then why bother saying anything at all?

Anonymous said...

I can (sort of) see where you are coming from.
But ... I found John Smith's talk to be the most moving (as in challenging) talk I've heard for a long time. I wished we'd had half an hour free after his preso. to reflect on it. I was physically (sore stomach, sadness, etc feelings), emotionally and mentally challenged.

I guess I glossed over the US comments - but he could have reversed it to be against Aussies (I am one) but it wouldn't have made any difference to me.
I was more concerned and disturbed about comments related to the world council of churches (not appropriate to expand on it here).
While it was an international/global/world view approach in his story telling, there were definitely challenges that I could apply to my local (Aussie) situation.