Reverend Rod Bower may be a social media sensation who has made it into the Washington Post, but not everyone is a fan of his eye-opening proclamations on the Anglican Parish of Gosford church billboard.
The Central Coast priest weighed into the gun law debate in America last week, asking, “WHEN WILL THEY LOVE THEIR KIDS MORE THAN GUNS”?
When The New Daily spoke to the good-humoured father of two, who has been preaching in the Central Coast town for 18 years, he told us he had just received some feedback.
“There was an envelope stuck in the sign when I go to work this morning that began, ‘get over yourself you sanctimonious pr–ck’. I have a very large box of hate mail it will go into.”
The 55-year-old takes it in his stride. Describing his wife Kerry as his, “moral compass and chief censor,” he feels it’s his Christian duty to use the platform.
I think it was Bono who said that celebrity is currency and it’s up to us to work out how we spend it, so I do feel that I have a moral and ethical responsibility.”
Bower’s had enough off the “thoughts and prayers” response to mass shootings. “I’ve got a bit sick of that and I thought I needed to say something that cuts through. To ask that question based on love seemed to resonate.”
As he sees it, it’s not just an American issue. “My great fear, here in Australia, is that we can fall into the trap of following American culture. We’ve got people like Senator Leyonhjelm wanting to water down our gun laws.”
Bower’s daughter lives in Chicago, where he and his board have popped up in conversation. On home issues, he’s spoken out against Australia’s treatment of refugees and the Islamic community.
He first used the billboard to comment on a hot button topic in 2013, writing, “DEAR CHRISTIANS, SOME PPL ARE GAY. GET OVER IT. LOVE GOD”.
His wife was in West Australia at the time. “When she phoned me that night I said, ‘I think I’ve done something that might be a bit silly’. After that, she tends to want to check.”
Apparently Bower has received little pushback from the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, though the office of newly installed Bishop Peter Stuart declined to comment when contacted by The New Daily.
Reverend Lorna Martin at the nearby Gosford Uniting Church said, “The statements Rod puts up, sometimes people might see them as provocative, but they actually make you stop, think and react. It creates conversation, which can help us move forward and find the way we can all live together.”
Damon Moss, manager at Tommy’s Cafe just around the corner from the Anglican church, agrees. While he acknowledges he has heard some criticism of Bower’s forthright opinions, Moss says the majority of customers seem to be in favour.
“I think in this day and age, surely we are entitled to voice our opinions and thoughts without being ridiculed, just as God intended.”