What is the Narnia-inspired Caldron Pool and does it promote “Christian nationalism” in Australia? | Christianity

On a Narnia-inspired website, amid anti-vaccination, anti-mask and anti-abortion messages, there are two petitions named after Hebrew prophets.

The website, Caldron Pool, has become a place of conservative Christian opposition to some of the measures taken by Australian governments in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and has attracted contributions from right-wing politicians such as George Christensen and Mark Latham.

Both wrote in favor of Ezekiel’s Declaration, which was posted on the site along with the Moses Declaration. These two documents were signed by thousands of religious leaders who oppose some public health regulations proposed during the pandemic and in some cases challenge the right of secular governments to impose them on Christians.

The Ezekiel Declaration, written by Baptist leaders, asserts that vaccine passports “would inflict terrible consequences on our nation” and refers to a landmark quote claiming that vaccination certificates were as real a threat as smallpox.

Written in the form of a letter to Scott Morrison, it questions the effectiveness of vaccines against Covid, and affirms that a passport represents “the dangerous precipice of therapeutic totalitarianism”.

The Queensland branch of Australian Baptist ministries says it does not endorse Ezekiel’s Declaration and does not represent its views.

The Moses Declaration, written by mostly Presbyterian writers, was signed by approximately 1,400 religious leaders from Hillsong, Baptist, Lutheran, and other churches.

The authors write that it is wrong for any government to obstruct gatherings for public worship, and that “God alone controls everything in the universe, including disease and death.”

“We don’t want to be placed in a position where we have to choose between obeying God or our government,” they write.

Religious services have been banned under lockdown restrictions imposed in several states, and like secular venues, they will have to restrict access to vaccinated people only in New South Wales when restrictions are relaxed once certain vaccination targets are met.

Ben Davis, named as founder of Caldron Pool on the website, writes: Special Time of Day, is finally trading the Great Shepherd’s gracious staff for Caesar’s often cruel and ruthless rod.

Some of these constraints have also been condemned by the main religious leaders, including the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel. Catholic Archbishop of Tasmania Julian Porteous calls for priests with “conscientious objection” to vaccines be allowed to continue to attend retirement homes.

But theologians and other religious leaders have warned that some of the sentiments expressed in forums such as the Caldron Pool represent a new strain of “Christian nationalism”, largely imported from the United States, which privileges the rights of believers over freedom. religious rather than their obligations to fellow citizens under civil law.

The site is full of articles ranting against vaccine passports (one commentator calls them the “cold, dark, bony hands of socialism that stick to the throats of Australians”) and questions whether Christians should feel obligated to obey. secular law on a range of coronavirus regulations, but also issues such as anti-discrimination legislation, abortion clinic protests and homosexual “conversion”.

An article on the site alleges: “What is happening in the once free West about Covid is just too similar to what happened in the once free Germany in the 1930s.”

What does this have to do with Narnia?

CS Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles series is widely regarded as Christian allegories, and articles in the Caldron Pool credit Lewis with a warning about “fake news” 70 years ago.

The site takes its title from a fictional location in The Chronicles where a monkey (Shift) convinces a donkey (Puzzle) to don an abandoned lion skin, turning him into a “false Aslan”, a pretender to the lion’s throne in The Lion , the witch and the wardrobe, the first in the Chronicles series.

The Caldron Pool – motto: “Make Common Sense Again” – aims to “demonstrate the truth of Christianity over all other religions while discerning the deceptions underlying alternative worldviews”.

The term “Christian nationalism” has been used to describe a wide range of groups and views, but at its core is the idea that Christianity is the natural foundation of a nation, but has come under siege. and threatened by outside forces – such as governments that want to place limits on church gatherings. In this context, the concept is not about ethnicity or “nationalism” as they are traditionally understood, but the reaffirmation of the rights of the faithful against the perceived encroachment by the secular state.

The role of Christian nationalists in the January 6 U.S. Capitol riots was criticized by more than 100 evangelical leaders. A study on attitudes towards vaccination among adherents of Christian nationalism in the journal of the American Sociological Association called the doctrine “a pervasive ideology that rejects scientific authority and promotes allegiance to conservative political leaders” and said belief in it was “consistently one of the two strongest predictors of anti-vaccine attitudes, stronger than political or religious characteristics considered separately “.

It is not suggested that Christensen or Latham share all of the views expressed on the website, or that they subscribe to any doctrine of Christian nationalism.

Christensen, the LNP deputy for Dawson, writes on the site that masks are “almost unnecessary” and that “we must fear God, not the virus”. On his own website, he wrote that “the sad truth is that we are not really free to express our faith in Australia,” citing the Israel Folau case as one of the “most difficult faith-based opinions” that have repercussions on those who marry them.

Latham, the leader of One Nation in New South Wales, said in an interview with the site that he is best described as an atheist, but nonetheless describes Christianity as “one of the essential pillars of our civilization” and states that the blockades have “failed in all respects.” ”. He has previously expressed opinion that “the fastest growing form of discrimination in our society is against people of religious faith, especially Christians.”

Davis did not respond to a request for comment. Latham and Christensen also declined to comment on the connection between their beliefs and Christian nationalism.

The Australian response

Australian religious commentators say there is a clear divide between traditional Christian views and some of the views expressed in forums such as the Caldron Pool.

An expert on the intersection of religion and politics at Macquarie University, Professor Marion Maddox, says the language of persecution is increasingly used by conservative Christians in Australia. Some Australian Christians see themselves “particularly” as persecuted and the persecution “something quite attractive or noble,” Maddox says.

The Reverend Tim Costello, a member of the Center for Public Christianity, said the libertarian and individualistic tendency is alien to mainstream Christianity, which has always had a communal spirit, but the pandemic “sparks a kind of madness in them.”

And Reverend Andrew Dutney, professor of theology at Flinders University, says there is a distortion of Christian ethics in the push. Christian authorities generally teach that people have an obligation to get vaccinated “as a way of loving your neighbor,” he says.

Evangelicals David Ould and Murray Campbell have describes Ezekiel’s statement like “a kaleidoscope of confusion, amalgamation and misrepresentation”.

“In reality, he is also trying to oppose blockades and repeat discredited anti-vaccination arguments,” they say.

Throughout the pandemic, opposition to restrictions in Australia has rallied extremely disparate groups of protesters, all under the sign of “freedom”.

The underlying conflict is between individual rights (with any restrictions seen as an end to freedom) and obligations to society – such as following public health orders.

Dutney says the pandemic is a “perfect petri dish” for fringe groups who are wary of authority and have a tendency to think apocalyptic. Former US President Donald Trump nurtured this type of anti-authoritarian thinking, he says.

“In general, in Christian ethics, the authorities teach that people have an obligation to vaccinate… it is a way of loving one’s neighbor,” he says.

“You don’t do it primarily for yourself, you do it for your community. It is a well established principle in Christian medical ethics.

Also, he said, there is no biblical argument for large church gatherings, citing Jesus’ statement that he would be where “two or three” people would meet in his name.

Maddox also said that the emphasis in the statement on the resistance of health authorities to vaccination decrees was striking.

“There are so many other ways of thinking [vaccination]… As love of neighbor, of the community. But they interpreted it as if the only framework that matters is that of authority, ”she said.

She says that around the world, Christian thought that opposes God’s law to human law is growing, with a growing belief that human laws persecute those who fear God.

Maddox says Australian Christians increasingly see themselves as under siege.

The idea is that “if they come for you, you have to do Christianity well,” she says.

Religious persecution is not a myth, she says, and Christians are certainly persecuted, but “the idea of ​​this happening to Christians in Australia is very, very special. It is the dominant religion in Australia.

Costello says that kind of resistance to authority seems to come from the United States.

“There is no doubt that it stirs the libertarian instinct of believers who say this is the test – whether we are going to obey God or humans,” he said.

“I would simply tell them that the Christian faith has always been communal and not individualistic. This individualism and this libertarianism are completely foreign.

Ezekiel’s statement “subtly undermines vaccination” he wrote earlier this month, and hamper efforts to meet targets that will ease restrictions.

“A significant minority has a veto right over us to achieve this point in the name of their religious freedom,” he said.

“And they are torpedoing the very thing they demand, which is the freedom to open up.”

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