As an English Australian Christian, ANZAC Day has been, and remains, somewhat enigmatic. I appreciate, and am sometimes deeply moved, by aspects of it. Yet it often feels a little alien, particularly in its more recent forms: adding, as they do, extra nationalistic and even militaristic overtones to a developed myth which is itself somewhat sub-Christian, and at times even anti-Christian (when, that is, it over-exalts the very elements of blood-sacrifice and trajectories of human violence which Christ's work transfigures and ends). Generally therefore, I tend simply to let ANZAC commemorations pass by, except when I am forced to confront them: such as at the SCG one day at an AFL match, where the invasion of the pitch by a military parade and ritual was a powerful reminder of the sometimes problematic relationship between sport and violence (indeed I wondered what it would take, and what reaction there would be, to a peace march and peace ritual in the same space in a similar manner). As a proud and happy Australian citizen, I believe strongly in the right of my fellow Australians to hold and practice ideas and behaviours different from my own. I also rejoice in the virtues and outstanding stories of courage, resistance and mutual support in the ANZAC myth and I pray that these may indeed flourish in positive ways in our lives and world today. However I still often feel somewhat distanced. Are there, I wonder, ways forward to a more inclusive commemoration?...
It is said that, faced by an immigration officer in apartheid-bound South Africa, the great(est) English cricket commentator John Arlott heard the question asking 'race' and simply replied 'human'. I have a similar reaction to my Prime Minister's encouragement to belong to 'Team Australia'. In the face of the breadth and complexities of international politics, violence and the abuse of religion, the only 'team' I would really want to belong to is 'Team Humanity'. Yet, like John Arlott, I wonder whether such mixing of politics with sport is actually good at all. It both diminishes the seriousness of the one and destroys what is life-giving in the other. This is not to say that the politics of sport is not a serious and important matter. John Arlott, a lifelong Liberal in the very best British sense, was himself a major opponent of apartheid within cricket, not least in his efforts to support the young, Cape Coloured, Basil D'Oliveira and to combat D'Oliveira's dismissive treatment by the cricket establishment at home and abroad. For power corrupts in sport, as it does anywhere else. FIFA is just one of today's preeminent modern examples. Sport is ultimately however only entertainment. It is not war or violence, even though it may often be a relatively peaceful way of handling those impulses. Tony Abbott is quite right that we need to work together to address violence and exclusion. Yet over-use of sporting metaphors is not entirely healthy, especially when it risks dividing those of different faith, race or national background into separate camps and also obscures our failures to meet our international obligations to refugees.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.