"Martyrdom of St Stephen" by Giorgio Vasari

Centuries ago, in the early days of Christianity, those who chose to follow God and become Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs in the most terrifying ways. People were imprisoned, tortured, or even slaughtered. Many died for their faith and were martyred for following the teachings of Christ. Even Jesus Christ was crucified for nothing more than spreading the Word of God and teaching people how to live a good and decent life.

Ages have gone by, and Christians are still persecuted throughout the world for their faith by other faiths and the anti-faiths of collectivism. There are still countries where Christians are hunted down and killed for what they believe in, and that is an absolute blight on this world.

In Australia, and other similar Western nations, that type of violent persecution is not evident. Obviously, no one in Australia is being murdered for their faith in God. But there is another type of persecution that is occurring, and this one seems to be ramping up into something that could easily lead to dire repercussions for the Christian community in this nation.

On Monday, Essendon Football Club appointed a new CEO in Andrew Thorburn. He was clearly appointed based on merit and, as was later uncovered, his personal life and beliefs were not brought into question when he was interviewed for the position. 

But as soon as the mob found out that Thorburn was a Christian, outrage ensued. The mob began to go after him, attacking him for holding Christian views. Thorburn is also the Chair of the Movement Board of City on a Hill church. For the sake of clarification, City on a Hill is an Anglican church.

Deputy Mayor of Port Phillip Tim Baxter said that he would be resigning both his and his children’s Essendon FC memberships ‘due to the Essendon board’s decision to appoint the chair of a homophobic and anti-health care church to the position of CEO’, urging all others who ‘care about queer rights’ to do the same. 

Others also jumped on this, making it clear that Andrew Thorburn’s religious beliefs were intolerable and thereby rendered him the wrong man for the job.

By Tuesday, Thorburn resigned from the role, hounded out of a job by the incessant hateful rhetoric from anti-Christian bigots in the community who joined in.

And yes, that is how you use the term ‘bigot’ correctly, unlike those on social media who are throwing the term around loosely, so much so that it will probably lose its meaning by the end of the week.

Let me start by making something very clear – this is not about victimhood. This is, by all means, about the persecution of a Christian man in the West, by those who often preach tolerance no less.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Christian. It is common knowledge that Christians hold specific beliefs and values that include being against same-sex marriage and abortion. We are not the only ones who hold such beliefs. Muslims hold these same beliefs yet, curiously, the press is slow to criticise or cancel them for it. There is actually an AFLW player by the name of Haneen Zrieka who is sitting out ‘Pride Round’ due to her religious beliefs as a Muslim. But those same people screeching about Andrew Thorburn’s beliefs are deathly quiet on her behaviour.

What is truly appalling, however, are the comments from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. After Thorburn resigned from his new job, Andrews was asked about the subject by a reporter, who inquired as to whether religious people are unable to be employed in certain roles or if they should hide their religious beliefs for the sake of being employed. Andrews responded by saying this was not the case, but that Christians ‘should be more kind-hearted and inclusive’ following with ‘we’re all God’s children, aren’t we?’

For the record, Christians are extremely kind-hearted and inclusive. We invite people to come along and join our community no matter who they are. We live by our faith values of love, charity, and forgiveness, and do whatever we can to help those who might be struggling in this world. So those assertions the Premier makes are incredibly baseless.

But Dan Andrews has decided to continue down this path in what is probably one of the most bold and reckless moves he could possibly make in the lead-up to an election. He labelled Thorburn’s Christian views as ‘absolutely appalling’, ‘bigotry’, and ‘intolerant’. 

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli spoke to these comments on Thursday, telling the Herald Sun:

‘Such language pitches some members of the community against others and contributes to an unhelpful spirit of division.’

He is correct. The use of such loaded words and language can only serve to do more harm, stigmatising Christianity and demonising those who practice it.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Victorian Premier said the following:

Read it all in The Spectator