'Your voice is critical for such a time as this' - the Australasian Religious Press Association's (ARPA) annual conference in Brisbane last weekend saw this unified expression of challenge to Australian and New Zealand Christian media.
The word went up that Christian media has every right and moreover a divine appointment to challenge the views of – the agents of harm, the destroyers of souls, the wayward secular media, the political minstrels and all their misleading and destructive interpretations - that Christian media must fight the good fight in all matters within our Australian and New Zealand societies.
There were some significant voices on the speaker's rostrum who bought such powerful and strident messages to the delegates at ARPA 2015.
Professor Nicholas Aroney an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the Centre of Public, International and Comparative Law, University of Queensland addressed religious freedom at length. He took ARPA delegates on an historical journey from Roman Emperor Justinian all the through the ages to today and present court rulings.
He illustrated through a series of pictorial and graphic big screen displays how there has been a detrimental incremental process through judicial, legislative but more so social mores that affects our religious dispositions and how that the media is central to public influence. So too Christian media must be resilient, forthright and steadfast.
Mark Fowler a lawyer engaged in doctoral studies and a regular contributor to ARPA conferences took the gathering on a journey as to Australian religious affiliations – both institutionally and the nature of finesse legal differences through legal judgements – as from concrete belief (religious institutional and religious personal) and that of the less defined ideas of spirituality.
He spoke of discrimination, vilification and the same sex issue and the nature of how the secular media's impact of 'marriage equality' support has had woeful disproportionate influence, even after Tim Wilson the Australian Human Rights Commissioner spoke out on the rights of the 'religious view'. An example of this was in Q&A where those who championed traditional marriage were vilified and demonised. Religious media's voice is of 'moment at this very time'!
Wendy Francis and Casey O'Brien Machado
Wendy Francis and Casey Machado were introduced by Press Service International's Sophia Sinclair who gave a thorough detailed account of how the religious media as a practitioner in her role editing 85 young writers published in Christian Today has such an ongoing effect, and endorsed Wendy's and Casey's national and international contributions whose voices do not disappoint 'righteousness'.
Wendy Francis a former editor of the Queensland Baptist and now the Queensland State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, a mother and grand mother of eight provided a media savvy presentation illustrating time and time again how the public agenda had been hijacked and moreover the secular media and political inaction allowed 'wickedness' to prevail and why Christian media must be prophetic and resourceful.
Displayed on the big screen with chapter and verse the rorts associated with prostitution and women trafficked for sex along with the recent furore over the schools package, Wendy Francis bought home that Christian media has a far greater voice that it itself might not realise its real and true potency.
Displayed were the single words a recent ABC survey sought from its listeners and viewers as to what they saw as being the most important on life - the two words overwhelmingly were 'trust' and 'honesty'. These were the hallmarks of Christian media.
Wendy spoke passionately of how blessed she was to have had loving parents, good education, a husband who loves and respects her, yet how easily anyone without such blessings might fall down in those areas and end up on the street. Sex is precious in marriage and noted that she enjoys sex as much as the next happily married woman, and that Christian media must continue to be forthright opposing the menu of secular media where sex is all too often for a woman as an exploited commodity.
Casey O'Brien Machado is the Territorial Social Justice Cooridnator for the Salvation Army Eastern Territory and served in a similar role for the Salvation Army in the hallowed halls of the United Nations for three years having served in South and Central America through the Salvoes.
Articulate and flamboyant, Casey set the pace challenging Christian media to highlight righteousness as its stock in trade. Expose the dark corners, the rooms of evil trade, the agents of corporate debaucherious greed where their board room decision adversely and horribly affect the lives of millions and millions of people.
Casey gave example after example challenging the gathering - who is my neighbour - and central to the Gospel is this focus on a triune respect for each and every human being – one at a time. It is to the Christian media that must alert its communities, its states and its nations to such.
There must needs be necessary benevolency from the first to the third world and Christian media stands as the bulwark to counter the evils of restriction to such obvious calls for right over against wrong. It is the divine that demands nothing less.
Tomorrow I will continue with the practical media sessions along with the annual ARPA awards.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html