If we believe in a God that can use all things for His purpose and good; does that mean even the shocking words of Fraser Anning can be used for a higher purpose in our nation?
In our Christian tradition, we believe in a God who actively repurposes and subverts that which may be used to harm, to be used for good.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
When Joseph says these words to his brothers, he holds one of the highest offices in the land of Egypt, but only after enduring years of betrayal and injustice at the hands of those who have intended nothing but evil for him. Yet through every twist and turn of Joseph’s story, God was carving a way for His higher purpose to be revealed, both for Joseph and for the nation.
I think we may have witnessed something quite similar in our Parliament this week.
Whether he realises it or not, Fraser Anning has just changed the course of Australia’s modern debate on race, migration and multiculturalism - and not in the way he was intending.
Senator Anning’s “final solution” comments on immigration have galvanised our nation’s political leaders to finally unite in a bipartisan stand against the insidious racist language and vilification that has until now, been slowly creeping into our public discourse like a hidden cancer.
The utter danger and moral corruptness of such scapegoating and racism has been exposed.
As Christians, we can only hope and pray that there will now be a triumph of compassion over fear and scare-mongering.
Racism, hatred, intolerance and bigotry are often the results of fearing what we don’t understand. Fundamentalist racism promotes a concerning “us and them” mentality. We should have no qualms about condemning it for what it is: a dangerous set of beliefs.
We understand as Christians, that the dark side of humanity is filled with ignorance and deception.
But even in darkness, light can shine through. And what we witnessed this week was a glimmer of that light as the Parliament came together to condemn those shocking words.
Bill Shorten got it right when he said: “We will not play a straight bat, stay silent and hope for the best. We know that racism fills the silences, discrimination thrives in the darkness. The only way to stop it is to haul each of those hateful falsehoods into the light and expose them for the harmful fiction they are.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described Senator Anning's remarks as "appalling" and said there was "no place in Australia for racism".
Even Fraser Anning’s former political colleague Pauline Hanson was appalled. The One Nation leader said the speech was “straight from Goebbels’ handbook from Nazi Germany”.
In no way do I think the events of this week mean the fight for good public debate on race, migration and what multiculturalism in Australia looks like, are over.
Nor am I saying this is a debate that should be avoided. If anything, the time is now for such conversations to be taking place as Australia hits the 25 million mark, and the impacts of that population growth are starting to be acutely felt in our urban centres.
Our political leaders have the capacity and responsibility to reframe the issues on migration and race.
And as followers of Jesus, we are faced with an important decision: we can choose to be insular and self-absorbed, or we can engage the world with confidence and generosity.
If we understand we bear the image and likeness of God inside us, we confront a deep reality. God sees each of us as a precious treasure; beautiful beyond our imaginations no matter what our religion or race.
Above all, we must remember the higher citizenship to which we are called as Christians, and ensure that it is through the example of Jesus and His Word that we are examining and forming our ideas and our identity.
My prayer and hope is that through the misguided words of Senator Anning – who severely crossed a line perhaps he wasn’t expecting to find - we have hopefully found our guard rails as a nation for how we must conduct this debate from here on in.
May I ask you today, to join with me in praying for our nation.
Lord Jesus, we humbly ask you to open our eyes to our own prejudices, fears and pride. Forgive us for where we have been judgmental or acted with privilege or racism. Give us wisdom for our families, our communities, and our nation. Show us how to walk in your ways of mercy and justice, to be the people and nation that you intended. Remind us today that our citizenship is in heaven, so we may sow hope and radical love, wherever it is needed. Our prayer today is: 'your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Come Lord Jesus. Amen.
Tim Costello is Executive Director of Micah Australia