Sydney, Australia, March 7, 2023
The Project (2009—present), a current affairs and panel talk show program, came under fire after a gay comedian and cabaret performer made a lewd joke live on air on the evening of February 28. The Australian Communications and Media Authority received hundreds of complaints in the days after the program aired, reports Sky News.
While not everyone believes in Christ, it is absolutely unacceptable “to disparage the Christian God, Christian teachings, and sacred symbols,” the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia said in response to a blasphemous joke about the crucifixion of Christ that was recently aired on a popular Australian television program.
“These blasphemous utterances are a product of a world and society that has rejected God,” said the local Serbian hierarch.
The hosts offered an on-air apology two days later, amidst the scandal, saying the joke caught them by surprise, and “there wasn’t a lot of time to react in a considered way.” “We weren’t expecting a comment like that to be made and we acknowledge the offence it caused. We are sorry,” said co-host Waleed Aly.
Of course, the Orthodox faithful of Australia were also outraged by the blasphemy, and the joke was condemned by at least two hierarchs.
Bishop Siluan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia and New Zealand issued a statement on March 4:
“…and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold,
this child is set for the fall and raising again of many in Israel;
and for a sign which shall be spoken against...”
It has been brought to our attention that on Tuesday night, the 28th of February 2023, on The Project, broadcasted by channel 10, blasphemous words were spoken against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
For Orthodox Christians it is the first week of Holy and Great Lent, a time of fasting and intensified prayer, a time of silence and reflection, a time of restoration and illumination, a time of heightened spiritual warfare, an entering into the spiritual arena of the heart on our journey to regeneration and the Feast of Feasts - the Holy Resurrection.
Whilst the Church holds vigil, praying for the salvation of the world... the demons are at their business of making noise, trying to distract the faithful in order to draw their attention away from prayer, from Christ, to the vanities of this fallen world, to its profane, superfluous and idle talk, its gossip and brokeness.
These blasphemous utterances are a product of a world and society that has rejected God. Christ tells us that the entire world lies in evil (1 John 5:19). Do we not see that the prophetic words of St Paul in Romans 1:28 perfectly describe this generation?
Let us listen to what he says, "Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy..."
We need to realise that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).
Great Lent is a recapitulation of all that which Christ did for us and our salvation, a journey that leads us through Golgotha to the Triumphant and all-glorious Resurrection, the ultimate defeat and loosening of the profound grip and sting the triad of sin, death and the devil had over humanity.
As Orthodox Christians, we also join others in rebuking that which transpired on the Project as completely unacceptable and inexcusable.
We also pray that Christ illuminates the hearts and minds of those who continue to wander without direction in this life, who sit in darkness, that they may come to the knowledge of Truth, which will set them free (John 8:31-32).
Christ is a sign that will be spoken against, as St Symeon the God-Bearer prophesied. This is because He stands at the centre of human history, there is non-other like Christ, He is the Way, the Truth and Life (John 14:6),the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 21:6).
He is the corner stone by which all things are held together (Colossians 1:17). However, we should be reminded that Scripture also teaches that whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to dust.” (Luke 20:18).
May the Lord be merciful!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Amen.
Archbishop Makarios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia also issued a statement on March 4:
It is with a deep sense of sadness that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia expresses its profound discontent and denounces the extremely distasteful and rather deplorable content aired on The Project, on Tuesday 28th February 2023 relating to Jesus Christ and the contemptuous derision of His suffering and crucifixion on the Cross. Equally inappropriate is the fact that such suggestive and disparaging remarks of a sexual nature were aired at a time in the early evening, 6.30 pm, when children were more than likely to be viewing such material.
It is well known to all who believe in Christ—and indeed have done so throughout the centuries, with countless Christians suffering martyrdom and death for their faith—that the selfless sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the most striking and compelling reminder of God’s boundless love for the entire world. Whilst formerly a most brutal instrument of torture and defeat, a most scandalous form of death in Roman times, the Cross, through Christ became the most pre-eminent symbol of life, love and freedom, of renewal and eternity. It is for this reason that such scorn and ridicule to more than half of the Australian population for whom Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross is considered sacrosanct, was both highly offensive and openly disparaging.
At a time when all people seek equal rights and justice—and do so rightly—it is equally important to be reminded of our common responsibilities, our common efforts and goals, as one human race, which are far more congruous than are our differences. Indeed, it is quite unfortunate, in our day and age, that many are quite happy only to lay claim to their rights but neglect their requisite responsibilities. Everyone is free to believe in Christ or not, but no one has the right to disparage the Christian God, Christian teachings, and sacred symbols—or in fact those of any other religious faith. Rather, it is incumbent upon all of us to foster a culture of peace and solidarity, creating bridges and opportunities for dialogue; promoting ways in which all people can have the right to exercise their religious beliefs in a spirit of amity and fraternity without fear of violence or ridicule. Anything less can only be a negation of our human dignity, nobility and mutual self-respect.