It has recently been reported in the ABC that Nathan Maynard, a Tasmanian Aboriginal ‘artist’ (I think we should use the word loosely) is seeking the body of an Australian of British descent which will “speak to sacrifice for past sins”. Maynard placed this advertisement in a Melbourne newspaper requesting that they “donate their future deceased body to an art installation”.

Strangely, Maynard is not advertising in Tasmania—but is targeting those who live on the mainland. But of even more concern, Maynard is receiving $15,000 from Hobart Council to complete the project. 

Thankfully, not everyone on Hobart City Council agrees. Councillor Louise Elliot told AP:

 “I view expression through art as being a core part of being human, but when the public’s money is involved, I think there are fair questions that need to be asked. In this case, how ‘healing’ is an artwork like this? I suspect its more divisive attention-seeking than truly therapeutic and question inducing as good art should be. And there’s already a high level of awareness of the atrocities white people had on Aboriginal people when they first arrived so it’s not serving that purpose either.”

“Our colonial history is full of heartbreak. If I could turn back time, I would, but I can’t. Personally, I think this is more about an artist getting exposure than actually helping the healing and unifying of our diverse community.”

Likewise, the federal Liberal Senator, Jonno Duniam also told AP:

Two wrongs have never made a right, especially when they’re tokenistic. Virtue signalling will not improve the lives of indigenous Australians. Ratepayers have got better things to invest in, and the Council should know t hat.

The Australian reported Maynard as saying that he wants people to “Donate your white corpse to atone for colonial sins” and that, “I want people to ask: What am I prepared to do for Aboriginal Australians?” The article went on to quote Maynard as saying:

There’s so much tokenism around at the moment. Virtue-signalling is really a trend. It’s trendy to act like you’re on Aboriginal Australians’ side, you’re friends with First Nations people around the world and you want to fight for their cause.

But I do suspect a lot of that is for people’s own benefit. They might not put their body on the line for an art installation, but what are they physically prepared to do? Are they prepared to come and march on the streets with us for ­invasion day? Are they prepared to fight alongside us for more land, for a treaty?

But ironically, does Maynard not see that his artwork is itself inherently “tokenistic”. A piece of ‘art’—paid by people who are mostly of British descent—will not change the lives of Aboriginal people. Neither will marching in the street or especially enshrining a ‘Voice to Parliament.” These are all progressive political acts of virtue signally par excellence. 

Note, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders currently receive approximately $33 billion dollars each year in financial assistance and associated benefits. ($6 billion is directly targeted, and the remaining $27 billion includes mainstream services). As such, it is highly misleading to claim that they the Australian government is not concerned with the lives of indigenous peoples.

But why should current generations seek to atone for the sins of the past? Significantly, Maynard is explicitly drawing from the worldview of a Judeo-Christian theology in trying to persuade the public to his position. But this is precisely where his argument is at its weakest.

Central to the Bible’s message is that forgiveness for our sins is possible through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. Let me give the following couple of examples:

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” 1 Pet. 3:18

This truth is crucial to the Christian message. And the reason why it works is because Jesus is not only fully God and fully man, but is without sin. Indeed, as the divine Son of God, the Bible teaches that it is we who have sinned against Him. 

And yet, and here’s the good news, Jesus takes upon Himself the punishment for the sins which we ourselves deserved!What’s more, in doing so he atoned for the sins for all who believe, for all time, from all peoples; which includes not only those who identify as Aboriginal, but those who are guilty of “colonial sins” against them as well.

However, to argue that a single human being exclusively descended from British ancestry—as Maynard is looking for—can become a sacrifice of atonement for the “sins” committed against a particular people group is immoral. A key passage from the Bible in this regard is Ezekiel 18 which teaches that the sin of the fathers should not be visited upon their children.

“You ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” Ezekiel 18:19-20

What has become clear in progressive ‘woke’ politics is that there is no forgiveness, no matter how many times a person says ‘sorry’. And what’s more, even with a literal bodily sacrifice, there can be no atonement. Just an ongoing perpetuation of grievance with the resultant cultural division.

What has become even clearer though, is that those who are proposing a ‘voice’ to parliament will be never satisfied. And it is time to stop trying to appease them. As Winston Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last.” 

– Mark Powell