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.