By Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald

Let’s talk about Jesus and sport.

No, no, no, not about how Jesus was the most legendary fullback Jerusalem ever had, nor even how, in terms of comebacks – see the Resurrection – he even outdid Lazarus.

Hot air: the balloon in shape of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue floats over Melbourne. Photo: AFP

I don’t even want to focus on the ludicrously pompous tendency of many sportspeople these days to credit Jesus with their victory, asserting that their deity is using what they think is his omnipotent power to guide golf shots, footballs and tennis balls, instead of doing something really important, like giving Clive Palmer a shocking quick burst of flu every time he’s due to do a media interview. But I digress.

See what I really want to talk about is the compelling image this week of a sports-betting company floating a one-tonne 46-metre-high Jesus-shaped hot air balloon over Melbourne, with arms 41 metres wide – in the image the statue of Jesus that stands above Rio de Janeiro, where the World Cup starts on Friday – dressed in a jersey emblazoned with the name and logo of that betting shop.

“Suffer the children to come unto me?”

Sort of. It was more, “suffer, you poor losers who think that there is a chance in HELL, you will come out ahead by putting the rent money on who you think will do well in the World Cup, when you MUST bloody well know that poor bastards have been trying to do that since the dawn of time and they ALWAYS lose in the long-term to those who own whatever game it is.”

The outrage of the church was predictable, with the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, leading the way.

“The [betting] campaign,” he thundered, “is simply a blatant attempt to boost business … But the campaign is hypocritical because the Jesus who overturned the money-changers’ tables in the Jerusalem Temple would not encourage betting.”

He, and many other religious people, were so highly offended they wanted it stopped.

But is the fact that the religious folk are offended, enough?

Personally, I have been offended for years by various religious types proselytising in the public domain that those with my belief system – a resolute refusal to believe transparent nonsense on no evidence – will, and should, burn in hell for all eternity because of it.  But those religious types don’t seem to particularly care about my being offended, so why should I care about theirs?

So in response, it is surely fair enough to quote, the brilliant Stephen Fry:  “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more … than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so f–king what?”

What about legally then, with some people saying there oughta be a law against it?


If Christianity acknowledged itself to be a business, and paid taxes on their massive income – in the case of the Catholics, putting no less than $30 million of that income into buying a mansion hostel in Rome, where George Pell now lives – they would have every right to sue for breach of copyright. Jesus is their symbol, and can’t simply be stolen like that, for your money-making venture.

Which leaves us with what grounds of complaint then?




The betting company is a massive operation, with only one aim in mind – and they know it – to separate fools from their money. To clothe that aim with the bullshit that you really might make money, this time on this World Cup, is bad enough. But by STEALING the feel-good image of a movement of 2000 years standing, that for all its sins has nothing to do with gambling and at its best is devoted to helping people, is ethically OUTRAGEOUS! And the wretches do the whole thing with full cognisance that with every sucker they bring in, the net amount of misery in Australia will rise. I say, a pox on their house!

And surely the Church would back me on this but, given their resolute opposition to ethics classes being taught in our schools, we can’t be sure.


Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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