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I have decided to pen a few lines in response to Barney Zwartz's 'An Understanding God' (The Age, 12 February) regarding his personal outrage, which was neither balanced nor effectual, in challenging a Pentecostal Minister, Danny Nalliah, regarding the latter's comments on the recent devastating bushfires as a form of divine retribution for the rcently passed Abortion Law Reform Bill.
I am neither a Pentecostal nor an 'expert' on religious affairs but I would have expected a professional editor to keep a cooler head here. Mr Zwartz also played out his political bias by throwing mud at Messrs Howard and Costello, who had nothing whatsoever to do with this subject in the religious sense.
I am not sure what message the Bible says to Mr Zwartz, but both the Old and the New Testament have a number of 'retribution' passages: Noah's Ark is a famous one, the Plagues of Egypt, the Psalms, Jesus throwing out the sellers in the Temple, the 'whitened sepulchres', and the scandalising of children punished by 'a millstone around his neck and cast into the depths of the sea'. These are not faint-hearted statements!
I always differentiate between 'acts of God' and actions caused by human beings, such as the WWII Holocaust, the Soviet massacres under Stalin, the abortion of millions of infants (now decriminalised in this State by the Brumby Government), and even the possibly man-made lighting of bushfires. In the case of human causation, we have poor innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time being subjected to the grossest cruelty that humans can inflict on the vulnerable.
Not strangely, the presenters of religious matters in the secular media look at the subject objectively (maybe tinged with some cynicism or even hostility) and are not involved with faith at the innermost heart-level of the true believer. Could it be that the halcyon days of 1970s 'fairy floss religion' are on the way out? Or maybe the religious presenters are not the right people for the job but find it hard to move on?
I admit quite freely, now that Pastor Nalliah has spoken up, that after the Canberra fires I too thought that maybe it was 'divine retribution' for the heinous law just passed to kill an oncoming generation of people. Was this Victoria's turn? Only God knows, I don't, and neither does Barney Zwartz; but I can't help but wonder.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 22 No 3 (April 2009), p. 16
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