On the rare occasion one hears the Bible quoted in public today, a likely text is: ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’ (Matt.7:1). In the world, this is often followed by a sermon explaining how we cannot say that anything is right or wrong. In the Bible, Jesus takes a different tack: ‘For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’ (Matt.7:2-5).

            In early October 2022 Andrew Thorburn was appointed as the new CEO of the Essendon AFL club, only to be sacked the next day. Some hard-working trolls had discovered that back in 2013 the pastor of the Anglican church that Mr Thorburn attends had ventured to criticise abortion and same-sex relations. Whereas Machiavelli tried to argue that politics has no connection with morality, the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, emerged in a lather of moral outrage. He denounced the views of the pastor as ‘absolutely appalling’ and ‘just wrong’, before going on to call on him and others to be ‘a bit more kind-hearted, a bit more inclusive’. ‘Aren’t we all God’s children?’ he asked – or proclaimed.

Not surprisingly, the Victorian Human Rights Commissioner, Ro Allen, praised the Essendon for standing on its values in removing Thorburn, and the Federal Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, chimed in by referring to the pastor’s views on abortion and same-sex relations as ‘an abomination’. This gives plenty of illustrative material for the biblical injunction: ‘Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation’ (Psalm 146:3).

            Christians have been quick to see the issue in terms of freedom, and there is validity in that. But in the light of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, let us examine Dan Andrews’ views in more detail. The Premier declared: ‘I am a Catholic. I send my kids to Catholic schools. My faith is important to me. It guides me every day.’

            So Dan Andrews labels those who oppose abortion and same-sex relations as holding views that are ‘absolutely appalling’, and then he confesses himself to be a faithful Catholic. On the matter of abortion, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says: ‘From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.’ On homosexual relations, it pronounces them to be ‘intrinsically disordered’. Such views cannot be ‘absolutely appalling’ when stated by the Anglican church but not so when affirmed by the Roman Catholic church.

            The point here is not the issue of freedom, but of judgment. In Dan Andrews’ view, Mr Thorburn is unfit to be the CEO of a football club because of his church’s views on abortion and homosexuality. According to his own measure of judgment, Mr Andrews has just pronounced himself unfit to govern Victoria. We sinful human beings do find a way of hanging ourselves. In the parable of the ten minas, Jesus tells of the nobleman’s judgment on the man who kept his mina in a handkerchief: ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant!’ (Luke 19:22) The issue is not framed in terms of discrimination; it is framed in terms of how blinded the natural man is to his own world view. Specks and logs indeed!

– Peter Barnes