Some people were shocked when Judith Collins told Nicky Hager he would have to account for his mean words about her when he ‘meets his maker’. The National leader was simply articulating an orthodox theological position, writes Hayden Donnell.
Working at The Spinoff has its challenges. Editors keep posting unflattering pictures of me above my stories. Most of my best story pitches have been rejected by Toby Manhire. But no challenge has been more acute or enduring than the fact that the organisation is staffed by a rabble of theologically illiterate heathens.
That problem was particularly apparent yesterday, when Judith Collins helpfully reminded Nicky Hager he would have to account for his “disgraceful” little books about her when it came time to “meet his maker”. Collins later clarified to Stuff’s Henry Cooke that we are “all going to die one day, Henry, and we’ll have to justify our actions”.
“Eek,” said one Spinoff staffer. Another called the comments “pretty ugly”. These people don’t know that Collins was simply stating an orthodox theological position. One day we will die, and we will have to stand before Jesus Christ and tell him the things we’ve said about Judith Collins.
As a former evangelical, I immediately recognised Collins’ words as the ones preached to me for most of my youth. They sprang from Matthew 25, where Jesus is sorting the “sheep”, who will enter heaven, from the “goats”, who will be cast into hell with Hager. To the sheep, he says:
I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me, and also you did not say any mean things about Judith Collins (emphasis mine).
Jesus then turned to the “goats” and said:
I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me, and you said many mean things about Judith Collins.
The irony of these verses has not been lost on theologians, who have noted that Collins herself has always preferred market-based solutions for clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.
Nevertheless, every current and former evangelical will have felt a familiar terror in Collins’ chilling reminder. “Jesus would not be happy about the things I’ve said about Judith Collins,” wrote Emily Writes, one of The Spinoff’s few religious insiders. “Yes, absolutely a defining fear of my life.”
Francis Ritchie, a pastor from Hamilton, would not confirm that we will all have to recount everything we have said about Judith Collins at the Day of Judgement. However, he does advise everyone to treat Collins politely in future. “The New Testament is insistent on treating others well, including those we disagree with – even most especially them.” However, to those still worried about the things they’ve said about Judith Collins, he did offer a small note of solace. The Bible contains elements of metaphor and even poetry, particularly in its passages on eternal life, he says. “Certainty around much of that stuff gets people tied up in knots.”
Metaphor and poetry are fine, but several biblical passages seem pretty clear-cut on the subject of Judith Collins. Not all of those land as definitively on Collins’ side as Matthew 25 though. In Revelation 20, the writer recounts a vision of the judgement of the dead, in a passage that’s ominous for both Collins and figures including Cameron Slater and Jason Ede. It reads:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is Dirty Politics. And the dead were judged by what was written in the book, according to what they had done.
As always, the Bible is confusing. For every verse where God commands bears to maul 42 children for calling a guy bald, there’s another one that says “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Though people have been trying for thousands of years, no one has been able to glean exactly what happens when we die from those holy pages. They’re a mess of contradictions that can be enough to lead anyone into a life of liberal agnosticism.
Given that uncertainty, Collins could be advised to think twice before invoking the spectre of God’s wrath upon her opponents. God may one day cast down the people who say her party’s alternative budget contains several multibillion-dollar errors, or who point out its continuing unhealthy addiction to roads, but until then, it would be much better for her to shun the supernatural and instead look at countering each argument on its merits.
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