A Nation Divided

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Sydney's anti-lockdown rally - July 24, 2021
Sydney's anti-lockdown rally - July 24, 2021
Sydney's anti-lockdown rally - July 24, 2021
Sydney's anti-lockdown rally - July 24, 2021

Hi Fighter,

“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)

These must be amongst the most forgettable words Jesus ever spoke. Could the Prince of Peace really have said “I did not come to bring peace”? And had Jesus really ever been intending violence?

To the latter question, I think we can confidently respond with a ‘no’, but it’s an unavoidable ‘yes’ to the sword of division. Jesus divided people. Some loved Him. Some hated Him. Few felt ambivalent towards Him or towards His message about the new world coming. Truth has a way of dividing people.

We now find ourselves in a deeply divided world. I have never seen this country so divided. It grieves me. Is it the truth that is dividing us or is it something else? It’s certainly not Jesus, or is it?

Freedom and Fear

I took part in the ‘Freedom Rally’ in Sydney two weekends ago. Call me naïve, but it hadn’t even clicked with me at the time that it was illegal to protest. The event was taking place only a short distance from where I live and I had my mask with me. I really expected to see just a handful of people there as I’d only been notified about it a short time before it was scheduled to start, and I hadn’t seen the event publicly advertised anywhere. I was in for a shock!

The first thing I noticed was that the venue for the rally was entirely encircled by police cars! I had never seen so many police cars before in my life (nor police)! Then the protesters started to pour across the street in front of me – hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them!

It actually turned out to be one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve had in a long time. I saw no violence. On the contrary, I remember one woman saying to me, “You can feel the love here, can’t you?” and I replied, “yes, I can!”

I know the rally was later depicted as having been small (around 1,500 people) and entirely made up of unemployed ruffians. My estimate was around ten times that number, and I saw lots of families – parents and children marching together – along with lots of explicitly religious people carrying crosses and banners saying “God is an essential service. Open the churches” and the like. We even sang the national anthem together at one point, and we sang as if we really were proud of our country!

I did an interview with a camera crew there and it was featured on Rebel News. Indeed, the interview was featured in two videos and I’ve posted both of them below. I was feeling quite euphoric at the time. Afterwards, I saw the way the event was depicted by the media, and I heard the Premier threatening to arrest and fine all of us. My euphoria was replaced with dread.

The police haven’t come to arrest me yet though I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen at some point though as I feel I can’t stay quiet now.

It’s not because I’m dismissive of the seriousness of the virus. I have lost a dear friend to COVID – my beloved Syrian friend, Father Alexi, who died within a week of contracting the virus in Damascus! The horrors of COVID appall me, but the four men I am working with at the moment who I believe are all at risk of suicide due to the lockdowns – these concern me even more. I do not think it will honor my departed friend in Syria if these good souls (and countless others like them) have to share a similar fate.

And so we find our community deeply divided. Indeed, I don’t remember ever seeing this country so divided, and the division seems to be largely along economic lines. I believe that the wealthiest areas of Sydney are also the most highly vaccinated. I’d be surprised if the most locked-down areas are not also the least vaccinated.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand what’s going on. Those who have white-collar jobs, for the most part, have been able to work from home and the disruptions to their lives has been relatively small. Those who work in laboring or retail, and those who can’t work at all, find themselves in a strange limbo – unable to get on with their lives and separated from their support groups. Those who are on the edge with mental illness or with other personal struggles feel as if they are being pushed over the edge, and they recognise too that those making the decisions that are destroying them all live on the other side of this great divide!

Where to from here? I’m not sure how helpful protests are. Apart from the public health concerns, such protests can become violent unless the participants are well organised, and it’s hard to organise anything when you’re not allowed to meet! I think the answer may be a well-planned campaign of civil disobedience (following the models of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.).  Let me know what you think, and tell me if you know of any other religious clerics (Christian, Muslim, Jewish or others) who might be willing to get arrested alongside me.

In the meantime, I’ve recorded my own plea to the Premier. If you agree that she needs to hear this, please do me the favour of sharing it.

Coaching Clinic

On a lighter subject, I’m happy to report that my Physical and Spiritual Fitness Clinic is up and running and I’m keen for more clients. Here’s the deal:

  • For $10/month you get access to our member site, to the training videos, and to the other tools I’ve been developing to help you become a physical and spiritual athlete.
  • For $100/month you get the above plus my one-on-one weekly mentoring via phone and/or email. You’ll also get access to software tools that will help you publish blogs and livestream videos – increasing your effectiveness as a force in the community.
  • For $400/month you get all the above plus mentoring from me at my boxing club and at Binacrombi Bush Camp. Unfortunately, this level of mentoring will have to wait until life returns to some level of normality.

If you’re not sure whether you’ll benefit from my program, please take my Physical and Spiritual Fitness Inventory. It’s a simple multi-question test that will help you assess your current level of physical and spiritual fitness.

You can also check out the video below on the joys of fasting as a sample of what’s in store for you, and when you’re ready to take me on as your physical and spiritual fitness trainer, sign up through my Patreon page.

If you can take out a subscription via Patreon, it will be deeply appreciated as I don’t have any reliable source of income at the moment. Having said that, I know that all of us are struggling now, and many are in far worse situations than me. Even so, if you can contribute, thank you, and I do believe I’ll be able to give you something valuable in return.

Sadly, there’s no boxing happening at the moment so I can’t invite you to join me in the ring this Saturday night. Even so, I do invite you to join me for our weekly Eucharist this Sunday (and every Sunday) at midday.

From this week forwards, I hope to livestream simultaneously through both Facebook and YouTube. This should make our broadcasts accessible to everybody (providing that the technology doesn’t let us down).

Please pray for me as I do for you. These are hard times. By God’s grace we will win the battle that lies before us.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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2 thoughts on “A Nation Divided”

  1. Dear Father Dave,

    First time commenter, long time reader! Though we have met on more than one occasion through my time training boxing at Dully with you and your crew, and from having once gone to one of your Sunday services. I’ll always regret not having gone to more of those, though the Muslim in me found it conflicting if not spiritually nourishing.

    This situation (pandemic, lockdown, etc.), like all crises, hit the have-nots the hardest. You are quite right in what you have chosen to highlight about the difference in experience of white collars vs the working class. Our government, more than any other before, are blatant in their preference for helping those who need it least.

    But I can’t help but feel that attending this protest by those who were tired of being over-policed like our brothers and sisters in SW Sydney, by those who have been struggling mentally or financially, and those who stand with them, was the result of justified but misplaced anger and frustration.

    I am not suggesting that the lockdown is not brutal – we both know this. One young man in my extended family killed himself in the first Melbourne lockdown due to having lost his job, becoming isolated and then spiralling. But I also, sadly, know many more people first hand – family and friends – who are at the mercy of this plague in Indonesia where it’s magnitudes worse than here, but with nowhere near close the level of public health response and support for those who are unable to sustain themselves. Some of them have died, but most of others I know who were infected by survived suffered tremendously from it.

    Father, my point is that while the lockdown is indeed brutal, and could be conducted in a way that is far less rough on the destitute, the unwell, the working poor, the “othered”, would it not be better to implore, and fight for better conditions and treatment in lockdown and indeed in all ways that power exercises itself over our lives? What good is it to exhort that this lockdown end? Is it not far more brutal to be violently ill, losing loved ones at a higher and faster rate than we are now, and having the whole population be at its whim? Would Christ not want us to collectively protect the elderly and the sick from death itself?

    While I have a deep respect and love for you as a community leader, man of God, fighter, brother (etc…), I am dismayed and disappointed by your presence at the protest and would ask you to reflect and consider on who this protest ultimately serves. Would you have felt differently had you known that it was organised by a fringe group from Germany, whose followers overlap with those of the racist right, ethnonationalists and those who we would otherwise deem to be antithetical to any sense of unity and true justice or compassion? (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jul/27/who-behind-australia-anti-covid-lockdown-protest-march-rallies-sydney-melbourne-far-right-and-german-conspiracy-groups-driving-protests)

    Interested to hear your thoughts.

    God bless you and I hope you stay safe and healthy.

    1. My dear brother. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      As I said, I’m not convinced that more protests are the way forward – both due to the health concerns and to the potential for violence. I do believe people must be able to protest though, which is why I think a structured program of civil disobedience might be far more valuable.

      As to the broader question you raise, I believe the mistake we have made is to see only two alternatives – either death by the virus or death by lockdowns.

      The ‘focused protection’ approach, as outlined by the doctors behind the Barrington Declaration, really hasn’t been tried anywhere outside of Sweden so far as I know. Sweden seems to be coming through very well. The rest of us have all followed the Chinese model. I think that is proving to be a big mistake.

      I think the options need to be broadly debated, and yet there seems now to be a criminalising of dissent. To even raise such questions is being interpreted as being reckless and uncaring! That in itself deeply concerns me.

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