For Fr Rod Bower (@FrBower) Christmas is the “G” word, the Universal More, whispering ‘#illridewithyou’.

Fr Rod bower Christmas message #illridewithyou
I avoid using the ‘G’ word these days. This makes life a bit complicated for me because, well, I’m a priest and I’m expected to talk about God. The trouble is the second I do mention the ‘G’ word I’m in a no win situation.

The difficulty is that the word comes with so much baggage. Before I get past the initial ‘g’ sound, the fundamentalists think I’m talking about their particular divinity, who apparently spends all day lying in wait to smite homosexuals, atheists and clergy who put up questionable roadside signs. One such Christian gentleman accused me of not mentioning Jesus enough in media interviews, when I supplied him with a number of links evidencing my many references to the founder of the firm, his response was; ‘Yes, but which Jesus?’

My Atheist friends, of whom I have many, on the other hand assume I am referring to the deity that they have rejected, perhaps because the only option considerable is the fundamentalist version, or perhaps because the whole ‘G’ thing just doesn’t compute. Those who exist at the fundamentalist extreme of atheism accuse me of believing in ‘sky fairies’ and worshiping the “flying spaghetti monster”; all of which are totally unfamiliar to me.

So I’m stuck, caught like a deer in the headlights, standing in the middle of the road. I just can’t stomach the fundo/literalist stuff as it offends not only my intellect (such as it is), but also my appreciation of the truth contained in myth and the beauty of poetic expression. Yet something deep within me wants to scream out ‘I believe in evolution but also know I am more than a collection of elements and chemical reactions’ and that the ‘more’ in me has something to do with the More of the Universe. The Atheist option, although sometimes appealing, ends up leaving me a little unsatisfied. I expect that the majority of humanity can relate to this predicament, perhaps it may well be the quintessential human condition.

Partly by accident, and partly by choice, I explore the More in the context of Anglican Christianity. Had I been born in Calcutta or Dubai instead of the Hunter Valley, I would probably be happily exploring this path as a Hindu or a Muslim.

So here I am an Anglican Christian, a priest, attempting to explore the relationship between the ‘more of myself’ and the ‘More of the Universe’ in the context of a post theistic, post doctrinal world. To make things just a little more interesting, NoFibs have asked for a Christmas article.

Here we are with the mythology and poetry of virgins and angels, carpenters and kings, and a child born, kindling hopes and expectations. Is there a universal truth in the midst of all this that can be engaged by fundamentalist Christians and atheists, by people of all faiths and none? If this cannot be, then the question must be asked whether there is any truth here at all.

As the terrible story unfolded around the Sydney siege, Rachael Jacobs journeyed on a train. She noticed a Muslim woman removing her headscarf. At the next station, Ms Jacobs felt compelled to reach out to the woman and let her know she had a friend in her. She then posted about her experience on her private Facebook page, which was shared by her friends; and so a hashtag was born, #illridewithyou. It was such a simple thing, one human reaching out to another, then another and another and then a whole community reaching out to another whole community. Some would call this a social media phenomenon, and they would be correct. Some would call it an act of corporate consciousness, and they too would be correct. For me, it is not only the movement of one human towards another, although it is certainly that, it is the movement of the more in that human towards the more in the other.

“But, wait there’s more!” For me it is also the movement of the Universal More towards the more in us. Now many will not feel the need to take that last step, but I remain unsatisfied without it.

So before some readers rush off to jam the switchboard of the Bishop’s office with more demands that I be burnt at the stake for heresy, while others quietly dismiss the ravings of just another religious nutter, perhaps we can all pause and consider a possibility.

Could it possibility be that if one archetypal human can embody both the immanent and the transcendent, then, perhaps so can we. If one archetypal human was made from both the dust of the earth and the dust of heaven, then, could it be that we are too. If in one archetypal person the yearning of the human and the universal can meet in an eruption of love, then, could the possibility of this exist in us?

For me Christmas is the “G” word, the Universal More, whispering ‘#illridewithyou’.

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  1. peter veitch says

    I have Met rod personally, we had a few in depth discussions. IMO he is awesome . Tbh I did assume ( as an ex christian now atheist ) pretty much what he says rè atheists here . Not after our chat . His views are way way more advanced than regular xians imo . The people who are in the side of the people , I’m with them, I’m … With Rod

  2. I love your stuff Rod, but if there is a god of any description, but omnipotent, we perhaps would not need the ride with you hash tag? I loved the response and I am happy for it to be only(??) the movement of one human towards another. Because that is enormous!

  3. I am a Jew. And I think Father Rod is an awesome individual. Thank God – whichever God – for him.

  4. Beautifully written and expressed. As an atheist, I find my ‘more’ in my connection to nature and to other people. I hear it in great music and feel it in meditation. I can see where you’re coming from with your explanation of god, but I fear that the worship of a supreme being, even when it’s not extreme, is at the heart of my difficulty with religion. For me, the ‘more’ isn’t a granter of wishes or a punisher of wrong-doers. It is something that calls us to be the best version of ourselves, not because of some threat or promised reward in this life or the next, but because, if we listen, it is the ‘more’ that calls us to be the best that we can be. I don’t need heaven or nirvana or karma as an incentive. I certainly don’t need hell (or samsara or a poor reincarnation) as a deterrent.

    • As a tired old Anglican priest, I reach out to the More in the universe, not for the promise of heaven, nor for the fear of hell. I try to connect with the heart of being, the soul of the universe, because it makes me more. I began with the shapes of an Anglican Christian story, because it was a place for me to start. And it helps because it includes great music, love of beauty, some good people and a place for silence.
      I still use god words, and the symbols I’ve known. But I imagine that where I am heading with my looking out, is not very different to the ways of a reflective atheist. After all, I know any god is unknowable. All I can do is touch the hem of his garment. None of us can do more.
      But if we sit in stillness, then the stardust, the ocean, the wind can be our little piece of the robe of the ineffable. And that helps me to remember to try to be more myself, and to honour the more in those I meet.

  5. This guy is nothing more than an intolerant, racist and anti-Australian cult leader. Many of his signs which are posted on the main street of Gosford are insulting to the majority of decent people. His constant bashing and defaming of individuals using these signs is a disgrace. He clearly has a political agenda and lacks any knowledge on most of the subjects he speaks about. His constant obsession with Islam is astounding for a christian priest. Whilst bashing decent Australians every second day as being racists he refuses to make a single comment against terrorist acts which are being committed around the globe. His total lack of tolerance is displayed though out his facebook site where anyone who dares asks a questions he does not want, or displays a different opinion or even has a different idea is immediately abused and banned. Yes, he shows real tolerance indeed. Hypocrite is a word which sums up this man perfectly.

    • Maisie Garland says

      Do you consider yourself a “decent Australian” then? Because virtually every word you have spat out above oozes hate and bigotry, unfortunately encouraged by our present government of twisted cynics and dog-whistlers, but not decency. Nor are your sentiments representative, to my mind, of the real, laid-back, cheerful, accepting Australia of mateship and the fair go. Do humanity a favour and swallow your own bile in future.

      • I do not consider an individual (and cult follower such as yourself) who preaches nothing but racist and intolerant views against most Australians as decent. The only ‘fair go’ Rod Bower is interested in is with his pro labor, Anti-Australian followers. Any educated free thinkers are banned by him and threatened. His own church is disgusted by him. Says it all

      • <

        @David Brumby

        Don't think for a moment you speak for me.

        An anglo white Australian atheist.

        Your "Anti-Australian" followers are in the same minority group that you are.

        A completely irrelevant minority …… with an all encompassing hatred.

      • Wayne Jansson says

        So much hate and bile from such a tiny mouse

  6. Laurie Forde says

    I disagree with using the tragedy of the Sydney siege and the subsequent outpouring of sympathy towards Moslems, to promote religion. Religion is the reason we are in the terrible state of division and hatred that we find ourselves.
    #illridewithyou is a humanitarian response, not a supernatural response.
    Let the people have a go at peace for a change . Religious beliefs and interference in human instincts are demonstrably the problem, not the solution.

    • I think you have misread the article… try again!

    • Maisie Garland says

      Violence and hate are demonstrably the problem. Fr Rod promotes neither.

    • <

      Then you are either as happy as a pig in mud that the authorities have clamped down on media reporting the siege ….. or you already know the answers to these questions :

      (1) Was the shotgun used by the siege murderer a single action, double barrel or pump action shotgun ?

      (2) How many at the siege were injured by the siege murderer and how many were injured by friendly fire ?

      (3) Why …… when so much information on the siege murderer is being released …. haven't the actual 17 people involved been interviewed by the media ?

      (3) Why is the Australian public getting Articles like … "NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione's wife and daughter in Lindt cafe before siege began." ……. after a 17 hour siege that ran for 16 hours non stop in the Australian media, as well as worldwide, and now bugger all actual reporting on what the 17 siege hostages saw and heard.

      (4) Why didn't Abbott take the phone call from the siege murderer ? ….. when at the time, 17 siege hostages lives were in danger.

      (5) Why did Abbott use the term "death cult" repeatedly in interviews, while the siege was ongoing, when there was evidence on FaceBook from one of the hostages "Marcia Mikhael, a 43-year-old mother of three from Glenwood" :

      ""The man who is keeping us hostage has asked for small and simple requests and none have been met."

      "He is now threatening to start killing us. We need help right now. The man wants the world to know that Australia is under attack by the Islamic State."

      The siege murderer was anti- Islamic State ….. but Abbott was referring to him as a terrorist, a "death cult".

      And Abbott was doing it l(live) in real time, while the siege murderer had access to all types of media outlets … apart from Murdoch's print copy of the "Daily Terrorgraph".

      No sign of Ray Martin and 60 Minutes to answer these questions.

  7. Religion did not cause World Wars 1 and 2, nor the Stalinist, Mao and Pol Pot regimes. Religion and non-religion are equally to blame. The blame is with HUMANS. We are the only species to imprison, torture and make war on itself. We are the only species driven by greed and a warped notion of superiority. These facets of human nature are independent of religion, as are kindness and empathy.

    The people have had a go at peace since 1945 and we have had the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, and the greatest scourge of drug addiction and family breakdown ever in history. In Australia, at least one woman a week gets murdered by her husband or partner. To is not right to lay all blame on religion or on non-religion. The responsibility lies with individual people, and Fr Rod is one of the lights shining in the darkness.

  8. I’m a non-believer, but nevertheless I’ve been moved by your efforts to bring some humanity to events that threaten to overtake us all. However, taking a critical look at the actions of two of the various churches that took part in events post siege, it is noteworthy that women were still not allowed to sit with the men in the Mosque, a Memorial Service was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral the very place where Cardinal Pell denied Gays the opportunity to partake of communion. And yet they all felt the need to wax lyrical about God and his mercy. Maybe there is a God and maybe he is merciful, but as yet he’s failed to get the message through to representatives on earth.

  9. Where was this bloke a couple of months back when members of our military were warned not to wear uniform in public, for fear of a ‘lone wolf’ style attack. Why wasn’t he supporting them and advocating for someone to “ride with them”. Look at the facebook site, he has no regard for the everyday Australian!

    • <

      Why was Abbott talking about "death cult" and "terrorism" live (in real time) during the Sydney siege ?

      THe siege murderer had access to every type media that was covering the 16 hour siege.

      Better to direct your stone throwing at the Authorities.

      And start at the very top.

      Start with the Prime Minister of Australia who went into the siege situation for political gain and then refused to talk on a phone to the lunatic murderer who was holding 17 hostages.

  10. :-) Beautiful

  11. Thank you Father Rod for your enlightened assessment of what are a most confusing set of facts on which to base our faith. This has always been my bete noir with religion. At the end of my life I have only the vague conviction that something inexpressibly wonderful might have engendered our present situation. At the same time I am 100% convinced that whatever this is did not dictate by proxy the old and new testaments through men of faith. So, Father, in a sense we ‘are in this together’ and I hope we will get there together wherever we may be destined.

  12. If God is, she’s in it all, mystery in every atom.

  13. nicodemusRnineT says


  14. Wonderful clarity on a hard subject to pin down. Many many Christians are of this line of thought, myself included, though few articulate it as well. And coming from the man behind that stunning billboard, speaking truth to power week after week, just adds to the credibility. The Christians of convenience in government right now, are not Christians by any sensible measure. Like – say – loving your neighbour. Its heartening to hear a voice intelligently doing what Jesus did – standing up to the bastards. Compassionately, of course!

  15. Would you please write ‘I’ll’ ;not ‘ill’ as they have different meanings! Otherwise I do like your honest writing.