Tim Costello's word for right now is "Hope"
New podcast series to help us find hope in crisis
Tim Costello, possibly Australia’s most high profile Christian, says we have just the message for our time of crisis. “I think Aussie Christians should be giving to the wider nation their sense of what hope means. It’s different to optimism.”
“Optimism is a preference, optimism is a wish. Are you optimistic? Yeah. Or no, I’m not.
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“Hope actually is different to a preference. Hope is a choice, and Christian faith says, ‘It’s the choice made on the basis that something new has begun.’ God’s new creation after the death and resurrection of Jesus says, ‘God is active in the world, building a new heavens and a new earth, a kingdom of God, reign of God.’ Where literally there won’t be any tears and suffering, though in the meantime, there is a lot of tears and suffering.
“Hope is the choice to believe that; to act as if that is true, to align ourselves with that belief – and it’s different to just a preference.”
Costello is so committed to a message of “Hope in Crisis” that it has become the name of a new podcast he hosts. Hope in Crisis joins the growing Eternity Podcast Network this week.
The COVID-19 Crisis is very different to the other crises Costello has spent decades dealing with. “Every other disaster, manmade or natural I went to, beyond the area affected and devastated there was normal life and solid ground on which you could plant your feet, organise help, organise donations.”
“This is the first time it is global and secondly, it’s the first time that we have been reminded how biologically connected we all are, that the infection anywhere is a risk to us all everywhere.
“It’s really a riff on Martin Luther King’s famous line, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
“Well, with this crisis [being] global, showing us we’re utterly interdependent, in some ways it is slightly different to all other crises.”
I think it’s wonderful how Christians here did not foolishly say our faith will protect us from the virus.
Australia’s success (so far) in crushing this pandemic might lead us to live in a bubble – but Costello points out that Australians have already begun responding to need in other parts of the world.
“I’ve worked with some Jewish and Palestinian Australians here to get 20 ICU ventilators sent to the Palestinian territories where they need 250,” Costello tells Eternity. “They have less than 45 and Greg Hunt, the health minister was really good in saying, ‘Yep, we tripled the capacity of ICU beds and ventilators. We haven’t even used a tenth of the existing capacity. So we had 2000 beds, we went to 7,000. We actually haven’t needed anywhere near 2000.’ And he was able to release those ventilators for the Palestinian territories.
“We worked with the government of Israel to get them in and the foreign affairs minister. Now, that for me, is saying, ‘Our borders might be shut, but our hearts are open.'”
Local churches in Australia have co-operated with authorities with regard to the virus, with virtually no protest. Costello sees this as a bright spot in a difficult time: “I think it’s wonderful how Christians here did not foolishly say our faith will protect us from the virus. We did not say we ‘will demand the right to still gather’, but we actually complied. And we showed love of neighbour by saying, ‘I love you so much, I’m not going to hug you. I’m not going to touch you.’ I think that actually was the best of Christian spirit”
But being Tim Costello, he has more to say – a message for the politicians.
“You know, if I can be a little bit political, I was a bit shocked that the premier of New South Wales opened up pokies venues to 500 plus people, but said churches can only have 50 people.
“Now I’m not arguing the churches should have more than 50, but I’m saying what a bizarre [situation when] pokies and gambling – which put people’s lives and health at risk – suddenly were opened up, whereas the churches rightly, have still stayed within limits, now limits of 50 people. But I’m very proud of how the church has acted in this time. I have seen love of neighbour and care and practical expression from the churches that is the gospel.”
But there’s lessons for all of us. In the face of a global pandemic, the whole human race has been caused to become somewhat humble.
“I think the whole world has had a global consciousness of going through the same anxiety, the same morbid infection rates on our news in various countries and death rates in various countries. And this global consciousness may actually allow the church to say, ‘We really were the first to express a global, international identity, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male superior ruling over women.’
Speaking in a very Australian voice (check it out on the podcast) – Costello says “So I’m a patriot. I love Australia, but I’m not going to be a nationalist saying, ‘My country is the best and should be first.'”
“I’m going to be loyal as the church should be to the kingdom of God, saying every person, wherever they live, carries the image of God.
“The good news is for all of them. Their identity is that they were made. Not self-invented and self-sufficient, but made by a creator and still vulnerable and humble and dependent on that creator.
“That I think is the message of the church with this global consciousness that we’ve all experienced.”