My wife & I just watched the interview Eddie Betts gave on Fox Sports about the latest examples of racism in the AFL.
I remember my daughter doing a school assignment on her favourite football player when she was 10. She chose Eddie Betts.
Being ardent Carlton supporters we were sad when Eddie moved to Adelaide and excited when he returned home to the mighty blues.
However we are not excited by persistent stories of racism in the AFL that reach the news. No doubt there are many more examples that don’t reach the ears of the media.
As we listened to Eddie Betts speak we were impressed by his graciousness and we heard the pain in his voice. He shared how he and his mother and father have been dealing with racism all their lives.
“It’s tiring. It hurts. It’s draining. It really hurts to be honest…”
“It’s been hard and I reckon I just need everyone to really go on a journey to start educating, to start those conversations.
It is difficult to listen to the interview without being moved by Eddie’s story.
The reason for typing these few words is because hear Eddie and I have a small voice in which I can say something publicly.
Firstly, I want to communicate to Eddie Betts and to other Indigenous footballers, you are right in not accepting racism. We want to stand with you in saying no to racism.
While I have never experienced racism, I know my wife’s family have; they were subjected to the White Australia Policy amongst other things. In my church are people who come from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds; beautiful people, some who have experienced racism because of the colour of their skin or cultural background.
Second, as a Christian leader in Melbourne (who also follows the footy), I believe we ground the dignity of human beings in something substantial, something sublime, and yes, even of Divine intention. You see, racist slurs and behaviour is an egregious attack on God and his purposes. Let me explain.
The God whom I know and worship is the God who made the heavens and earth, and who made all humanity in his image.
It was out of this theological conviction that Martin Luther King cried,
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The Bible begins with this extraordinary notion that every human being bears the image of God and therefore has inherent dignity and worth. No race is greater or lesser than another; all have His print on us.
The Bible has more to say. The creator God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world because humanity was bent on throwing away the dignity of the imago dei. Humanity’s actions have resulted in the belittling of human life in a thousand different ways, including the abhorrent belief of racial inferiority.
This Jesus who was crucified and raised, and he now holds a message of redemption and reconciliation for the nations.
The Bible’s story ends with a vision of a new creation where God is at the centre and his world is filled with people from nation and language,
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
I realise churches sometimes fail, but more often they do offer a little glimpse into this heavenly future. I thank God, that despite our own worts, Mentone Baptist is a community with people who come from all over world. This multi ethnic community is amazingly dynamic in unity and love.
Going back to Eddie Betts testimony on television, how can we despise or belittle an image bearer of God? How can we insult people for whom Christ died? How can we fight against the Divine plan to reconcile peoples from across the world in Christ?
Jesus once said this,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The Bible also encourages us to ‘mourn with those who mourn’. So, while most of us may not understand what it’s like to be in Eddie Bett’s shoes, we can still stand beside him, and ask how we can help shoulder this burden. We can check our own hearts and we can speak up whenever we hear someone disparage another on account of their ethnicity.