conversations with Dan

Conversations with Dan: 3 Shane on Minchin parody

Dan, even though you have not yet had a chance to respond to my first post, I do have to take the opportunity to pursue a tangent, and say something about Tim Minchin’s thank you God. I confess to finding it funny on the first read but less so with time (you were right to presume that I might not be a big fan). While it might be clever humour (and it’s a shame we cannot see the live version) it is the sort of thoughtless atheism that is too common among the 95% of unbelievers (dig, dig) who, unlike yourself, set up a straw house they label ‘Christianity’ and then marvel at how easy it is to burn down. What I mean to say is, I recognise almost none of the views of my Christian friends in the thing Minchin is parodying.  Of course the same is true of most Christian responses to atheism! We presume the atheist is a thoughtless pot smoking greenie. Nice to have a conversation with a brother that can get past the name-calling.

Now, while I would like to get to your important discussion of healing soon, I might take the opportunity to respond to another one of Minchin’s concerns. He says:

  • ##, what are the odds
    That of history’s endless parade of gods
    That the god you just happen to be taught to believe in
    Is the actual one and he digs on healing
    But not the AIDS-ridden African nations
    The victims of the plague or the flood-addled Asians
    But healthy, privately-insured Australians
    With common and curable corneal degenerations

I hear this complaint a lot but I actually think it’s logic is upside down. The author presumes there is no God or, at least, that the God we believe in cares for the white Westerner but doesn’t give a hoot about the starving Third World. In fact, however, it seems to me that global poverty is very much a human problem (I would use the label sin) rather than a divine one. Further, the Christian Church, in response to God concern about poverty and injustice, has a long history of working tirelessly and sacrificially on the side of the poor and oppressed. The church is criticised because its God is supposedly impervious to evil in India and Africa, yet, in fact, it is God at work in people like Mother Teresa (and countless unnamed people like her) that show us that the opposite is true. indeed, we only patronize Africans when we parody the Jesus that countless millions of them have come to believe in. In reality, it is Western secularism that tends to ignore poverty.

I could say more but I realise that this is very tangential to your point. back to a discussion of healing – or whatever you wish.

About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on

1 Comment

  • Dan Clifton
    April 25, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Not sure that I had much more to say to your original post than I said in my response, Daniel 5, inequity of miracles. Will re read to see if I have missed something.

    Interesting how poetry, songs have completely different meanings to different people. My reading of Tim’s words are completely different to yours as I will elucidate below. But before I do I will concede and give credit for many of the marvelous people within the Christian faith that have given tirelessly of themselves to improve the lot of others (even if some of the stuff through to the 1950’s was partially misguided and may have caused more harm than good in terms of loss of culture and traditional custom, spread of disease etc).

    My interpretation of Tim’s lyrics are this:

    1. Why is it that of all the worlds different religions (endless parade of gods) that it just happens to be the god that is culturally favored by the majority of westerners and western countries that happens to be the one and only true god who can perform these miracles – this is obviously rather unfortunate if you were born into a Muslim or Hindu family, or even, Darwin forbid, an Aboriginal, Inuit, American Indian, Papua New Guinean highlander, Polynesian, Micronesian, Asian, African, etc family 1000 years ago). Unfortunately for these people not only where these “miracles” not available to them, they also had to suffer eternal damnation even though unlike me they were never even exposed to the Christian religion and the workings of Jesus and thus did not have a choice.

    2. Secondly I do not believe Tim is accusing God of being a racist in his giving of miracles only to western white people (although he does use these examples to illustrate his point). I think the point he is trying to make is that why tinker with minor issues like Sam’s Mums cataracts or the common cold when there are so much bigger challenges in the world such as Aids (wherever it might occur), starvation, cancer or the Japanese Tsunami, or perhaps spinal injury. This second point again comes back to my last post.

    To me these are the concerns that Tim was expressing and they are certainly the ones I would like to hear your thoughts on.



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