December 17, 2004


How I started Family First (Phillip Adams, December 14, 2004, The Australian)

LIFE, for me, has become intolerable. No, not because of John Howard's triumph, the Labor Party's woes or even last month's re-election of George Bush. But because I've recently discovered that I'm personally responsible for the Family First Party. [...]

Here's how it happened. Believe it or not, I have a friend who's a Pentecostal minister in Western Australia. His church has grown so quickly that they should rebuild it with rubberised walls – so that it can be constantly expanded to accommodate the thousands upon thousands of new recruits, mainly drop-outs from more traditional congregations. It seems they've found the stony-faced style of worship within the stony walls of the Anglican church somewhat unexciting – and prefer to bounce around at my friend's establishment. Where worship seems indistinguishable from play and they're encouraged to behave like children in one of those pneumatic bouncing castles.

Despite the fact that we dwell in different universes, my friend and I enjoy spirited religious debates and he's also fascinated by the world of the media. So I've taken him into the ABC and he's sat in on a few Late Night Live radio shows I host during weeknights, seeing how secular humanists go about their subversive works.

Then, out of the blue, he invited me to a sort of Pentecostal jamboree in Melbourne, where hundreds of evangelical ministers would be debating theological matters and, as well, seeing how to increase their already burgeoning market share. Would I come along and address the gathering?

It had to be one of the oddest invitations I've had. An atheist among the evangelicals. Or, as I would put it to them on the day, "a toothless lion in a den of Daniels". For on the principle that it's good to know thy enemy, if not to actually love them, I agreed to attend.

I found them as likeable a group as most, and less monolithic than I'd anticipated. While conservative – frequently fundamentalist – not all of the ministers could be categorised as belonging to the religious Right. Some shyly confessed to views that verged on the progressive, at least on the odd issue. So although I'd expected to be greeted with cries of "Unclean! Unclean!" I was given a good hearing and, after the speech, a polite cross-examination from the floor.

What I didn't know – a fact revealed to Compass – was that the front row of my audience included the evangelical movement's heaviest hitters, just a handful of blokes representing tens of thousands of the faithful. And they were intrigued by my opening remark.

Which, according to them, went something like this. "Christ, if you blokes could all get together, my mob would be in big trouble."

St Joan describes hearing her "voices". They instructed her to cover her peasant's smock with a suit of armour and lead a war against the Poms. Apparently my words had a similarly electric effect on the god-botherers who, afterwards, got together and said: "Adams is right! We should organise ourselves! Get political!"

The rest is history. No, not history. It's a threat to the future.

Actually, it means Australia might have a future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2004 7:43 AM
Comments for this post are closed.