Jewel Topsfield reports in The Age today that ACCESS Ministries ‘has apologised unreservedly for any ”damage or emotional distress” caused by a comic strip that portrayed a teacher impervious to the suffering of a bullying victim’.
I’ve added the inverted commas above. Apart from one, Christians I know and have spoken to on the issue of ACCESS Ministries quickly distance themselves from the brand pushed by para-churches as “un-Christian”. The other was “saved” by showman Evangelist Benny Hinn at Dallas Brooks Hall in the late 1990s. But, that’s another story.
Chief Executive of ACCESS Ministries, Evonne Paddison published a letter on the ACCESS site claiming, ”Once Access Ministries became aware of the damaging and offensive nature of the cartoons, they were immediately pulled from its website”. This is not hot of the press news. But some disturbing ambiguities and the inability to take responsibility on the part of Evonne Paddison need to be brought home. Scott has addressed the “apology” already reminding us that, “This statement gives the impression that what is on ACCESS’s website has little relationship to ACCESS Ministry.”
Indeed, but we can look further. “Pulled from its website”? This gives the impression of a third party commentator. Coming from Chief Executive Paddison, however, it alludes to her somehow making things right with a wayward subcontractor. If a builder was notified by a new home buyer of displeasure with a transparent, not opaque window in the bathroom, this is the tone of apology one expects. Sadly, these failed attempts to both sway opinion and apportion blame, masked as an apology are frequent in Christian lobbyist circles.
So, we need a better term than “apology” here. The recent debacle over Jim Wallace, Australian Christian Lobby head who tweeted on ANZAC day that soldiers didn’t fight for an Australia that was “gay and Islamic”, provides the solution. Appearing on Sunrise to address the community outrage, Jim blamed Twitter “activists”, his elderly father and suggested he’d been fumbling on Twitter for about “a week”, when his first tweet was 14 months prior. He insisted “Australian values” were under threat. Thus, the handy term Nopology came into use.
Paddisons habit of nopologising for the proselytising of ACCESS volunteers has already been aired. She would “want to know” if such things occurred. This apparently meant they do not. Yet, they did occur. And these are important matters. Things that should never have gone wrong initially.
What confidence can one expect to have in Paddison as CE of ACCESS Ministries if her nopologies allude to an independent streak offending parents, students, teachers and the community under her watch? An author of text for ACCESS cartoon resources herself, one has every right to expect final drafts pass over her desk. In fact, one has every right to expect they do.
On May 6th, the website Eternity reported Paddison’s nopology under Vilified Cartoonist Was Translating A Parable. In The Age today we read, ‘Teachers claimed they had been vilified by the comic strip, and bullying experts warned it undermined Education Department anti-bullying guidelines to seek help from teachers.” Justified condemnation is hardly vilification. Casting teacher’s as bullies themselves is a more apt “vilification”.
Also on the Eternity site, cartoon author and Anglican minister René Pfitzner also nopologises saying, “In this case I happened to choose a student’s relationship with their teacher”. And, [H]e says children are bright enough to weigh a comic strip against their own experiences. “They could say: ‘Boy, I’m glad my teacher’s not like that’. It’s not at all about instructing children on their relationship with teachers.” Today in The Age, he adds, ‘‘The child does not appeal to God, but continues to appeal to the teacher and ends up getting what he wanted.”
Read those comments again, and like me you may wonder just why we need Christian ministers or ACCESS volunteers to impart such wisdom. That strikes me as plain and simple Ethics. And isn’t ethics trumpeted by ACCESS as unsuitable? Because it denies children what may be their only opportunity to be introduced to Christian values?
As a final underscore that the burden of truth weighs heavily on Evonne Paddisons shoulders, Jewel Topsfields article finishes with;
He [René Pfitzner] said it had been Access Ministries’ decision to put the comic strip on the website.
Whatever Evonne Paddison thinks she is conveying to Victorians, I venture to add it lacks what most understand to be basic Christian values.