John Harris draws some distinctions among the first Europeans to come to Australia.
Well the first people who came here, the first European people who came here, theoretically were “Christian”, in the sense that they came from a supposedly Christian country. But I think we have to be a bit more nuanced than that and say that, whereas people are culturally Christian, they’re baptised in a church, they’re married in a church, they will be buried from a church – but that doesn’t mean to say that they’re committed people to the Christian faith.
But yet among all of those early settlers, among every part, every sector, there were people who were committed Christians. There were committed Christians in the military; there were committed Christians among the convicts; there were people who exercised and believed their Christian faith. And I think that the way those people responded to Aboriginal people in those earliest days says a lot more about the Christian faith than the way in which a supposedly Christian community responded.
Many people think that the Christian faith somehow provided tacit approval for the abuse of Aboriginal people, but not only does it nowhere provide such a justification but I think that very few people thought that, or very few people read their Bibles that way. And the only few cases I’ve seen of people supposedly using the Bible to justify doing the wrong thing were, in fact, abusing the Scriptures – and they knew they were. The Bible makes it very clear that human beings are all equal in the sight of God, and I think that most true Christians actually believe that.