Today I had the honour of seeing my name in print for the second time in our national newspaper, The Australian.
This time, I wrote a response to FM radio host Kyle Sandilands of The Kyle and Jackie O Show, the highest-rated FM radio show.
For those unaware, Kyle caused outrage a week or so ago when he made some vile comments about Our Lady, the Virgin Mary.
After receiving hundreds of phone calls, emails and other messages from Christians and Muslims, as well as a staged protest outside the radio station headquarters, Kyle made a lengthy apology on-air yesterday. Here is my response, printed in today’s paper:
Christians are right to be angry, but Kyle Sandilands should not be sacked over his Virgin Mary comments. No matter how thick-skinned a person is, nobody appreciates it when their mother is insulted. And as a Catholic I can attest that few things offend us more deeply than attacks on the blessed Virgin Mary, considered a spiritual mother by millions.
That’s why I was pleased, if not surprised, to see the widespread ire sparked by Sandilands’ inflammatory and insulting comments about the virgin mother.
Whether he realised it or not, the top-rating FM host was jabbing a gigantic hornet’s nest, achieving the rare honour of uniting Catholics, Protestants and Muslims in outrage against him.
Perhaps it was the anger of the latter in particular that prompted him to make his long on-air apology on Monday, in which he described being inundated in complaints and criticism.
Many are calling for the shock jock to be sacked, while he claims ignorance of the insult he was giving when accusing the most venerated woman in human history of being an adulterous liar.
“I get upset at the fact that, wow, I’ve really caused a lot of grief to a lot of people and what they believe, and that’s never what I meant to do,” he said.
“I was trying to make people have a laugh; I didn’t realise I was treading quite heavily on very gentle territory for a lot of people.”
Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but his comments didn’t just extend to the mother of God; he accused followers of Australia’s largest religion of being “dumb as dog shit” for accepting the biblical story.
By his own admission, Kyle is woefully ignorant or astoundingly arrogant and dismissive. But does he deserve to lose his job, a la Israel Folau?
No, I don’t believe he does.
Like many others, I considered Folau’s sacking deeply unjust. In a freethinking society, nobody should be punished for expressing their personal beliefs; it sets a dangerous precedent for anyone else who dares to put a toe over the politically correct ideological line.
I don’t think Sandilands’ words about the Virgin Mary were justified or wise. They were profoundly disrespectful and offensive to many people of faith and I don’t believe he should have uttered them.
For that matter I don’t think Folau’s comments were wisely expressed either, but I do believe in the fundamental right of both men to speak their minds.
I understand people are angry; perhaps some want revenge against the system that punished Folau, but to call for Sandilands’ sacking is to back the precedent that felled Folau.
While I don’t think this is the right way forward, I do believe the anger of my fellow Christians is perfectly justified.
Christians are sick to death of being the butt of every joke. We are sick of the double standard that affords every other group the right to be offended, to be protected from insult and even from being sacked for expressing their beliefs.
Christians have long been picked on as an easy target. However this has gone well beyond a joke. In recent decades we’ve been threatened into silence, refused platforms, mocked and ignored in ways that would cause uproar if it were any other faith or group.
I’m willing to bet Sandilands didn’t realise how much his words would offend faithful Muslims as well as Christians. So I’m glad of the vocal outrage that has erupted. I’m glad he apologised. I’m not glad about what he said, but I’m happy it sparked the response it did. Christians need to speak out more, to stop allowing our beliefs to be trampled by some of the media and cultural elites.
When all is said and done I feel more pity than anger for Sandilands. He grew up in an abusive, broken home, rejected by family and even forced to live on the streets. He appears to have never known a father’s love and guidance, or how deeply and tenderly people of faith hold their religious convictions.
I don’t think Sandilands deserves to lose his job but I am pleased he has learned that Christians do not take lightly to having their spiritual mother mocked. I only wish it hadn’t come to this to make him realise that even if he doesn’t share our beliefs, he should at least treat them with respect.