Strand Publishing 2001.
There are two things that can safely be said about Fred Nile. One, most Australians have heard about him. Two, most of what Australians have heard about Fred Nile is negative, derogatory and malicious. That is because the mainstream media is largely made up of people who abhor the beliefs and values of Fred Nile, and therefore want nothing more than to discredit and belittle him.
Thus the importance of this book: to “meet the real Fred Nile” as the back cover blurb states. This book tells the story of one man who has determined that his life for Christ will count, and that it will count not just as “pie in the sky in the sweet by and by” but in the here and now of Australian life. This book reveals how one man committed to being salt and light in a dark and needy world can make a difference – a significant difference.
Many people will know of Fred Nile as a moral’s campaigner, a NSW politician, a minister of the gospel, and an opponent of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. All those facets of Fred’s life are covered in this book, and much more. The source of Fred’s convictions and beliefs are laid bare, and a portrait of a man sold out for God and his kingdom emerges.
The stories of the formation of the Festival of Light, the Call to Australia Party, the Christian Democratic Party, along with the countless public meetings and rallies, controversies and political intrigues are covered in detail. What one gleans from this account is the dedication, perseverance, commitment and guts of one man in the face of overwhelming odds.
One has to wonder how much less of a moral and spiritual cesspool Australia would be today if there were a dozen more Fred Niles on the scene. Indeed, the message of the book is clear: God plus one is a majority. One life (well, in this case two: Fred’s wife Elaine has been equally active in the battles and conflicts) can make a difference. And that should give us all hope. It should renew those of us involved in the culture wars. And it should inspire future men and women to take up the challenge to turn the world upside down, as it was said of the early believers (Acts 17:6).
When I speak at various meetings and rallies about the need for Christian social involvement, I often illustrate my talk with the example of Wilberforce, the Christian parliamentarian of two centuries ago who made such a difference in the United Kingdom and beyond. In many ways he single-handedly helped to stop the slave trade in Britain. I often say that just as Wilberforce is known in all of today’s history books – Christian and secular alike – there is no reason why we cannot be known as well in future history books. Why can’t we live a life of such dedication and zeal for God that our names one day will make it into such books?
Well, Fred Nile has done just that. His name may be largely a curse word to many today (just as Wilberforce’s was in his day) but history will record that here was a man that made a lasting impact. Interestingly, Fred mentions Wilberforce as one of his own heroes. Perhaps future Christian social activists will say the same about Fred Nile.
Another impression one gathers from this book is that even though Fred and Elaine have done much to maintain biblical standards, society has nonetheless continued in its downward spiral. Indeed, after reading about the tens of thousands of Christians who turned up for rallies organised by Fred in the 70s and 80s (with speakers like Malcolm Muggeridge, Mother Teresa and Mary Whitehouse), one wonders if such crowds could be pulled in today. Apathy, indifference and selfishness seem so much greater now, that it seems unlikely that such Christian champions of faith and family values could again fill football stadiums.
(Of course, visiting American televangelists, offering versions of the health and wealth gospel, will still draw large crowds here, but pro-life and pro-family speakers seem able to only draw meagre crowds nowadays – a reflection of the spiritual anemia found in so many churches as much as the growing secularism of Australian society.)
Given this sad turn of events, the need for new believers of the caliber and dedication of Fred Nile is all the more urgent. True, not every believer is called to run for Parliament, engage the media, challenge the secularists, or oppose the forces tearing down our culture. But all of us can be inspired and encouraged to make a difference right where we are at. Reading this challenging and much needed volume should do just that.
Fred Nile is not perfect – and he would be the first to admit it. He has done some things that some Christians cringe at. He has probably done some things that he himself cringes at. But the truth is, in an age where Christian ethics are reduced to bumper stickers, when many churches are selling their souls for a secular bowl of porridge, when many Christian leaders have abandoned the basics of the gospel, and many individual Christians have compromised their faith and abandoned their convictions, Fred Nile shines as a light.
As such, this book should be read by all – not just those concerned about the cultural decline, but by all concerned that genuine Christian faith be reaffirmed in these dark and trying times.