The ABC has been caught out in the rain and subjected to a torrent of tweets demanding a retraction. They ran a story about the rain that is falling in NSW with the blasphemous headline, “Prayers answered as NSW rainfall extinguishes 74-day Currowan bushfire”.
Thousands of comments have poured down over Twitter and Facebook, expressing anger at the ABC for daring to use the word, prayer.
“Prayers have no place in journalism. #ThisisNotJournalism”
ABC news… prayers had nothing to do with it. Please delete this offensive tweet. #FreedomFromReligion
“Prayers answered” ???
Seriously @abcnews get this religious propaganda out of your lexicon. The rain came because science. Nothing more nothing less. Sure as shootin’ not because someone asked nicely for it.”
I suspect the choice of wording had nothing to do with actual belief in God, as though the editor was personally thanking God or encouraging readers to do so. Like millions of Australians every day, we borrow words and ideas from Christianity to express our own thoughts. In this case, someone at the ABC probably thought they were being cute. It’s a rather innocuous and generic way of noting thankfulness that the bushfires have been extinguished.
But in Australia today, this cannot be tolerated. References to God cannot be permitted unless it is in the pursuit of mocking religion. Religion (and specifically, Christianity) is to be ridiculed by the media in the most celebratory and obnoxious ways, but no one is to dilute the purity of worship to secularism. Introducing the word prayer is sacrilege. It might encourage someone to, you know, actually pray to God. Worse still, maybe there’s a religious person working for the ABC and they’re trying to brainwash the country with subtle suggestions of Divine power.
Our friendly neighbourhood secularists have reminded us, even an irreligious use of a religious word must be opposed. I couldn’t help but turn a little smile as I noted that some of the people yelling at the ABC today were, only weeks earlier, defending the ABC for its evenhandedness and balanced reporting. But now, they are demanding to know the name of the editor who approved the headline; no doubt to shame them and call for their immediate dismissal.
Wait till the outrage mob realise that there are Christians working at the Bureau of Meteorology and that some of our country’s Climate Change scientists are also Christian! Yes, that’s right, scientists who also pray. Scientists who believe in God and in the Bible!
The ABC has now repented of their grievous sin. The headline has been replaced, but our moral judges are not yet satisfied. What guarantees will be put in place so that this never happens again?
In contrast to this irrational and over the top reaction to the ABC, I think prayer is great. We should thank God for the rain, for the rain has put out dreadful fires. We should also ask God for safety for those who may experience flooding, just as we have done so with the recent fires.
A friend of mine who lives in the Blue Mountains faced the threat of bushfire only a month ago. This weekend he called the SES for sandbags to help protect his home from floodwaters. Fire and flood remind us that the world, as wonderful as it is, is not the safe and secure environment that we long for. As we have been reminded in recent weeks, humanity has done much to harm the world; it is, to use a biblical word, cursed. It is both a place of extraordinary beauty and terror. In the current cultural climate, we mostly focus on the things we don’t like. Australian society is filled with perennial complaining and whinging, and in that, we often forget the tremendous blessings that we enjoy and the good that we can see and hold.
Many Australian have been praying for rain, both to put out a terrible season of bushfire and also to break the drought has gripped so much of the country. Has God answered those prayers?
Sometimes our words carry more truth in them than we realise. The angry mob who have bullied the ABC this afternoon will probably not thank God for the rain. They may well be grateful, but to whom? Thankful for the meaningless weather patterns that have combined to create the splashes of water on our gardens and in our rivers? Without God, surely the weather is just nature’s mechanics at work without reason and meaning? The clouds did not form for our benefit, to help us in any way. There is no ethic or design; it’s just water. That’s all it is. The very notion of thankfulness for rain is an illusion, an evolutionary mistake in the human consciousness that causes us to pray and thank a God who does not exist.
Or maybe, as the Apostle Paul once told a crowd in the city of Iconium,
“In the past, God let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16-17).