With the same air of predictability as Geelong winning the Grand Final last week, the media have identified yet another Christian in the sporting world who believes, well, what Christians believe.
Writing for The Age, Noel Towell and Kishor Napier- Raman, have sounded the siren against Essendon Football Club’s new CEO, Andrew Thorburn. The controversy? Apparently, Thorburn is a confessing Christian who belongs to a church that believes in Christian things.
They are at pains to tell the world that,
“Andrew Thorburn is chairman of the City on a Hill church that preaches against gay sex and abortion.”
“it was Thorburn’s other gig as chairman of conservative Christian church City on a Hill that raised eyebrows on Sunday.
City on a Hill will look the other way on same-sex attraction, as long as you don’t act on it, but abortion is always a no-no.
It’s not clear where Thorburn stands personally on those issues, but his role as chairman of the church’s board requires him to advocate for the furthering of the church and its beliefs.
We asked the club how Thorburn’s links to the church squared with those commitments to diversity and inclusion that we’re always hearing about from AFL clubs and the league itself.”
Not to be outdone, the Herald Sun’s Sam Landsberger has thrown more intensity around the ball with comments like this,
“New Essendon CEO Andrew Thorburn is the chairman of a church organisation which preaches controversial beliefs around homosexual behaviour and abortion.”
As a Carlton supporter, I have as much affection for the Bombers as I do for an elbow to the head, but even I can see there is no reportable offence here. The reality is, there is no story. If Thorburn was Jewish or Muslim, would the media be running with this story? Of course not. The AFL is careful to protect religious players (as they should) and even laud their religiosity. This is just the latest round of what is becoming a rough conduct tactic to either knock Christians out of high profile positions or to bully them into submission. As with the Manly 7, journalists see their jobs as naming and shaming sportspeople who stand out from the crowd. We’re all for diversity and tolerance so long as it fits with the current trends!
Christians are the new version of the Essendon drug saga; dirty and not to be trusted. We are not only seeing this in sport but in academic institutions, some businesses and even in schools. As The Age opinion suggests, Thorburn’s Christianity must raise concerns about his fitness to hold the role of high priest to the footy club’s inclusive policy. Of course one might ask, but what about tolerance toward Christians? Are Christians to be excluded from yet another sporting code because they hold to orthodox and everyday Christian beliefs? Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about some weird cult-like fanatics, this is normal and historic Christianity.
The name of the game today isn’t tolerance, it’s capitulation. The dominant culture doesn’t allow competitors or opponents, and the AFL wants to lead the way. The new sporting code only has room for 1 team. Everyone is to wear the same colour jersey and sing the same team song, and dissenters aren’t welcome. No wonder, journos feel the moral compulsion to turn into dibber dobbers and report Christians to society’s favourite umpire: the mob.
I do find it ironic that despite constant calls to Christians, demanding that we keep our views to ourselves and not talk about them in public, the media yet again wish to draw out a man’s personal beliefs into the public square for interrogation, and possibly to see him lose his job.
I don’t know Andrew Thorburn and I couldn’t tell him apart from the Essendon cheer squad…or firing squad (depending on the season). But I am familiar with City on a Hill. COAH is one of those Churches that believe the Bible and think Jesus is the Son of God and is convinced Jesus really did rise from the dead. And contrary to all those ‘relevant’ churches whom the media approve of, Bible Churches like City on a Hill are growing. Progressive churches are losing people faster than GWS, whereas churches who cherish that ancient faith are the ones holding steady or seeing membership rise It’s fascinating to see that despite pundits packaging relevance with progressive theology and ethics, the reality is quite different. People long for a hope that is more secure than a Sherrin wobbling about on the deck, and they are searching for a truth that cuts through the thin layer of cultural populism.
I wonder if the journalists have spoken to any of the hundreds of members at Thorburn’s church, and asked, what they think about the church’s teaching? Why are they convinced the Bible stands opposite to phobic behaviour?
What these journalists fail to appreciate is that the high views of God and the Bible that COAH affirms (as does my church and 100s more across Melbourne) are the vital ingredients for showing grace and mercy. Jesus didn’t come into the world because he agreed with our sexual ethics and our mistreatment of society’s most vulnerable. He disagreed in the strongest terms and yet loved. AFL is one of those rare sports where athletes crash and tackle and break their bodies for the sake of the team. Jesus did more, he laid down his life on the cross for his opponents. If that’s the kind of religion City on a Hill preaches and Andrew Thorburn believes, then I reckon he may bring some much needed grace and strength to the world of football.