Listen: Tim Costello in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Rev. Tim Costello has just returned from a visit to the United States. He told ‘Open House‘ what he saw in America was deeply distressing.
Fear and grief
“I felt great grief, personal grief. The rhetoric is polarised. It’s almost impossible to have a conversation between Republicans and Democrats. Families are fearing going to Thanksgiving which is bigger there than Christmas. They worry if politics comes up there will be fights and division in families.” says Tim Costello
Call to social justice
Rev. Costello was in the US in Washington DC where he has joined the board of the Sojourners community led by Rev Jim Wallis. Sojourners describe their role as being a mission to articulate the biblical call to social justice, to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. ‘Open House’ spoke with Jim earlier this year regarding the # Reclaim Jesus movement.
A tireless campaigner for human rights and social justice, Tim is also Ambassador-at-large for World Vision Australia who are spearheading the # Kids off Nauru campaign. He is also the Head of Micah Australia which recently took a group of female Christian leaders to Canberra to advocate for global social justice issues.
I was praying a lot for America
The moral majority
He told Stephen O’Doherty on ‘Open House’ that the general sentiments of Americans were not positive and that for us it can be hard to understand certain aspects of America.
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“I was praying a lot for America. I felt heaviness fear and anxiety while I was there. The moral majority in America have ended up voting for a President who has had five children to three different women, who is a casino owner to stop the moral decay – that’s a curious thing to me” he says.
A ‘Christian Nation’?
“The danger with the Gospel message that is often being preached is that America was once a ‘Christian Nation’. America sinned. If America can get the right Supreme court appointment on the right legislation, America will be a ‘Christian Nation’ again. I don’t believe that’s the Gospel. I believe the Gospel is Jesus who died for our sins and rose again; rather than that any nation was a ‘Christian Nation’. I very much doubt that.” explained Rev Tim Costello.
White supremacists feel emboldened
Fear of the China, immigrants
He says America’s siege mentality is shifting. “Now it’s not the fear of terror they’re declaring that’s a second priority. It’s a fear of China and its rise. I think when you live with fear it corrodes you and I think politician’s language should not only be aiming for peace but also soothing fear. Heaven knows, we’ve all got a lot of fears we are carrying in our daily lives, about our kids about our bank balances , our job security, when political leaders ramp up fear I think that gets to being irresponsible.
Tim Costello was reluctant to say Trump’s rhetoric about migration and the ‘immigrant caravan‘ heading from South America to the southern US border, directly caused the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. However he did say that political leaders “All know if you play race, if you play fears, there are always people who are demented, or on the borderline, who have been white supremacists, who are in the closet who feel emboldened to come out.”
Hateful words and hateful actions
“Clearly, this man Mr Bowers who killed these eleven people in the synagogue was anti-immigration. Anti-immigration enough to say the Jewish refugee organisation that has been around for 150 years; most Jewish families in America have links with this organisation in getting to America. It has broadened, and this Jewish organisation is doing immigration with other refugees. The killer clearly targeted that. There is, sadly, not a causal connection, but a correlation, between what Trump has been saying and some demented killers who are acting.” says Tim Costello.
That kind of point is made very strongly in an article on the Sojourners website, “When White Nationalist Christians Redefined Their Neighbors’. The author, Daniel José Camacho, is an Associate Web Editor at Sojourners. He is the child of Colombian immigrants and was raised in New York. He is well aware of those Christians (like Bonhoeffer) who resisted the Nazis antisemitic message in 1930’s German. What he explores in this article is how other Christians rationalised their support or lack of direct opposition to Hitler’s anti Jewish agenda.
Part of the article says “German Christian nationalists had already redefined who counted as their neighbor. If neighbors can be defined primarily as the “non-foreign” members of one’s nation first, then one can morally justify all sorts of actions against people who are categorized as outsiders.” While not drawing direct comparisons the article continues “…there are important lessons and warnings to be learned from what happened in Germany.I don’t think any of us are capable of predicting exactly where hateful ideas and hateful rhetoric lead to. But we can be sure that they lead to bad places.”
I find this really terrifying
Costello says it is appalling Trump will not moderate his language “I find this really terrifying. That’s what I mean by America coming apart. I went to church myself in West Virginia. A little Church of Christ Brethren, whatever denomination that is, which was near where I was staying.”
“I was really struck, Isaiah 1:7 was the text, “because you rebelled against the Lord he is sending foreigners to strip your fields”, and the preacher went to “Central Americans, and to what the President had warned and the need for a wall….” says Rev. Costello
“There’s no foreigners in West Virginia, they’re are all white and we’re all white in church. I thought this is stoking fears and presidential language, any political language has to say “I must be responsible in terms of the fears I stoke” that does really worry me.” he says
I pray for Donald Trump
Tim Costello told Stephen O’Doherty that he does pray for the American President. “I do pray for Donald Trump. I couldn’t initially. It was a blockage in my mind and I felt challenged by the Lord who was saying “You need to pray for Donald Trump” I pray he will temper his language and that he will lead wisely.”
“The other think I pray for to be honest, is the way he keeps going fake news, fake news . As the Bible says ‘you shall know the truth the truth shall set you free” if there is an assault on truth and the things we regard as solid facts we can’t even agree on those and we just make up our own facts, I think society and culture is in deep, deep trouble. So I pray for him on that score also.” says Tim Costello.
Behind every successful man stands a very surprised woman.
Dial turning on Nauru
On the issue of off-shore detention Rev Costello feels there is a change coming. “We believe the dial is slowly turning on this issue that turning back boats is working and the visit of Christian women to Canberra organised by Micah Australia is a big factor. Those women from a variety of churches spoke to both Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison in Canberra” says Rev. Costello.
Women are the answer
“When in trouble, Stephen, send in the women. That’s what Micah Australia did. Women do most of the caring and most of the praying” Tim says his own wife says “Behind every successful man stands a very surprised woman. “
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