It’s official – well at least it has been committed to newsprint – that Dean Philip Jensen is a ratbag.
He was listed along with the newly minted member for Goulburn, Pru Goward (‘the NSW parliament is ruthlessly sexist”) and magistrate Pat O’Shane, by David Dale, journalist, raconteur, inveterate list-maker and no mean contender for the title himself.
Those who follow the internecine wars in Sydney Media (more bruising than synod) will recall that Dale was sacked as editor of the Bulletin for publishing a list of Australia’s most appalling people.
This pewsitter doesn’t know if the Dean is upset at being called a ratbag. But the Dean should wear the title with pride. Ratbaggery is something this column has always admired in the clergy.
A ratbag is someone who will risk community opprobrium to tell the whole town something it doesn’t want to hear. A prophet in other words. The ratbag Isaiah, the ratbag Hosea, it has a nice ring.
Ratbags know they are unpopular. They know people would like them more if they would only shut up. They know people think they are crazy. Dale called the Dean “ultraconservative” which except in The Australian means crazy.
Sydney has always been ratbag central, and religious leaders have made the grade from the start.
The convicts and the guards must have thought chaplain Richard Johnson an odd fish for volunteering to come to the Botany Bay. While he prayed, rum, sodomy and the lash were the order of the day.
Our uber-ratbag was Mr Eternity, Arthur Stace, an illiterate petty criminal and drunk given by God a miraculous ability to write and the job of Sydney’s first graffiti artist tagging “eternity” in yellow chalk across our city.
Ratbaggery is still social death. Ratbags don’t make the “A” list, they get sent up by the media desperate to find someone despised more than a journalist.
Another drawback to ratbaggery is the temptation to be true to type and say outrageous things just for the sake of it. You can get trapped in the role, and wish just for once people would take you seriously.
Some pewsitters will think we don’t need any ratbags. A calm reasonable gospel presentation is enough. Well it is, but it’s the content that gets you labelled.
A ratbag message is one that will tear young (and old) people out of comfortable Sydney careers and send them to unfashionable third world countries.
A ratbag message tells glitzy Sydney to stop the self indulgence.
A ratbag message gets people to live in smaller houses than they can afford (offending the local God of property) and work less hours (offending the god of success).
This good Aussie word fits the job description Paul gave of himself to the Corinthians “known, yet regarded as unknown; … sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
If we spent our lives saying what we really thought chances are the bloke in the next desk would think any of us were a ratbag. Our problem is not that we have a handful of ratbags in this diocese but that we don’t have 60,000.