“This isn’t about the Margaret Court Arena. This is about the truth,” Margaret Court told her congregation at Victory Life Church, this week.
It’s a point on which Mrs Court and I agree.
The whole kerfuffle about Margaret Court’s unpopular views on the LGBTIQ community and marriage equality has very little to do with her tennis achievements or the name of a tennis arena. It has everything to do with which side of the argument is telling the truth and which is spreading malicious and deceitful misinformation. In a nutshell, it’s about who is bullying who.
What is clear is that the “facts” are firmly on the side of the LGBTIQ community. They are the victims of Mrs Court’s campaign of false and misleading propaganda. And it’s not just the LGBTIQ community arguing that Court’s arguments are factually and theologically flawed.
Robyn J. Whittaker, Bromby lecturer in Biblical Studies at Trinity College, sets out a theological argument against Court’s simple-minded fundamentalism, here.
Similarly, Rev. Dr Keith Mascord, a long time priest of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, notes that Court’s views are not only out of step with the majority of Christians, but are factually unsustainable. He says:
“Conservative opponents of marriage equality express concern that the social fabric of our nation will be undermined, and that children especially will be hurt if we tamper with marriage. But the big problem is that these concerns are proving harder and harder to substantiate, with almost all the accumulating evidence suggesting that far from undermining society, marriage equality will strengthen the bonds and extend the reach of an institution with a proven track record of helping us all to flourish.”
We’ve heard a lot about narcissism in recent times. Inadvertently, President Donald Trump has brought much needed attention to this malignant personality trait. Coincidentally, I’ve had my own personal run-in with a narcissist. I know, first-hand, how their avaricious egos feed on attention (positive or negative). I know how they adorn themselves with lie upon lie until whatever was authentic, human and caring within them suffocates and dies. I know how they feign love and empathy, but have the capacity to feel neither. And, I know, when challenged, or caught out in a lie, how they puff out their chests, turn the argument around to make you the ‘bad guy’ and whine loudly about how they are the victim and you, the aggressor.
I understand, first-hand, how destructive narcissism can be. Narcissists are ruthless. They are parasites, intent on self-aggrandisement and the preservation of their exoskeleton of falsehoods. They have nothing else. They are empty vessels.
Not all liars, of course, are narcissists. It’s one thing to base one’s entire existence on easily disproved falsehoods. But, to constantly seek public attention through the promotion of these lies and to reject out-of-hand the evidence that your lies are hurting – possibly even killing – people, reeks of a malignant form of pathological narcissism.
Is Margaret Court a malignant narcissist with delusions of grandeur? I’m not a psychologist, nor do I know her personally, so I can’t say. I can say her behaviour reminds me strongly of someone with this personality disorder.
As a tennis champion, Mrs Court attracted a great deal of attention and adulation. It’s quite clear part of the reason for her success was her single-minded focus on what was best for Margaret Court.
When other athletes boycotted South Africa because of their policy of apartheid, Mrs Court cheerfully played in a segregated tournament. She was unperturbed by the fact her doubles partner, Evonne Goolagong, was only spared discrimination because she was deemed to be an ‘honorary white’. Indeed, at the time, Mrs Court praised the South African government’s policy.
“South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America. I love South Africa. I’ll go back there any time.”
Sensing, perhaps, that this quote may come back to haunt her, Mrs Court alluded to it in her 2016 autobiography:
“… when I accepted the invitation to play in the South African Championships I truly didn’t understand the fuss because I had not bothered to educate myself about the iniquities of apartheid.”
Despite hundreds of other leading sportspeople standing firmly against racism, Mrs Court was so focussed on what was best for her, it didn’t even occur to her to look into what the ‘fuss’ was all about. She didn’t bother to consider what it might mean for her young Aboriginal doubles partner. She gave no credence to any argument that might interfere with her own interests, ambitions and quest for attention. If it wasn’t in the best interests of Margaret Court, she simply didn’t want to hear it.
Importantly, that is exactly what she is doing in this current debate. The overwhelming majority of medical and mental health experts assert that homosexuality is a natural, unchosen and unchangeable expression of human sexuality. It is proven beyond any doubt that attempts at ‘gay conversion’ (as practiced in Mrs Court’s own church) are cruel, dangerous and often lead to self-harm and suicide. Psychologists agree the toxic culture created by those who suggest homosexuality (and gender dysphoria) is perverted and unnatural causes untold psychological and physical harm to members of the LGBTIQ community, particularly teens. The evidence is overwhelming, indisputable and freely available. Yet, Mrs Court obstinately refuses to be ‘bothered’ to educate herself about the ‘iniquities’ of discrimination against LGBTIQ people.
Yes, she resiled from her former racist stance. But, only because racism is now so socially unacceptable it would irreparably taint her reputation were she to maintain her support for apartheid today. But, in the current climate, the LGBTIQ community are still a soft target. Tolerance for homophobic views is diminishing, but homophobia still carries some social currency.
“Margaret is entitled to her opinion!” we hear, from people who would never use the same defence against someone who suggested our schools should be segregated or that Aborigines should never have been given the vote.
Mrs Court could educate herself on LGBTIQ issues. There is no shortage of people who would help her. But she will not. Why? Because to do so would inflict a terminal wound to the persona she has carefully constructed to ensure continued global attention even as her sporting achievements fade from memory. Mrs Court’s lies are form an armour. They are her means of self-preservation. Without them, she is merely a faded tennis star of no particular contemporary importance. She has never done anything notable but thwack a ball across a net. With those glory days long gone, the only currency she has left is controversy.
It’s interesting that, as Court’s sporting career faded, she took on the mantle of one chosen by God. What can be more satisfying to an ego, constantly in need of nourishment, than the belief you are in personal communication with, and an emissary of, an omnipotent deity!
But it was not sufficient for Mrs Court to simply become a member of a congregation, nor even to preach from the pulpit of a mainstream denomination. No. Mrs Court founded her own church; a church, in which, incredibly, the opinions of God mesh perfectly with Mrs Court herself! As a Pentecostal pastor, her congregation accepts her as God’s mouthpiece – infallible. It’s almost as if she were God incarnate.
I am not qualified to state that Mrs Court is a narcissist in the clinical sense. But, if one were a narcissist, having a whole congregation of co-dependants would be a very efficient means of ensuring a boundless well of narcissistic supply. (And, the fact their tithes and donations provide you with a very nice living couldn’t hurt, either.)
Mrs Court’s church is not one of those unassuming bodies which toils quietly but assiduously for good causes. Far from humble, Mrs Court’s Victory Life Centre aspires to TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION.
Despite protestations she doesn’t have a political bone in her body, Margaret Court’s personal church is aligned with the dominionist “7 Mountains movement”. This is why she calls Victory Life Centre a “church with a purpose”. The purpose is not to feed the poor, help the needy or comfort the infirm. The aim is firmly and undeniably political. The clearly stated goal of the 7 Mountains mandate is to build a literal army to take over all the governments of the world and install ‘prophets’ like Mrs Court as the new world leaders. Don’t believe me? This comes direct from the church’s website:
“Victory Life centre was founded in May 1995 by Rev Dr Margaret Court following a call from God to establish and Word of Faith/Pentecostal ministry in the Perth area. Our Vision is to Train an army of people who know Christ from within, to take this city and nation for Jesus. This has been the focus of the church since its inception and this has, in part, been accomplished through the establishing of Victory Life International Bible Training Centre and Margaret Court Community Outreach Centre.”
“… The driving force in [Margaret Court’s] call is … the desire to see God’s people equipped and trained to take back the seven mountains of society.”
What are these ‘7 mountains’? You can read about them here. Briefly, the 7 Mountains mandate states that until Godly government (i.e. theocracy) is installed in all the nations of the world, Jesus will not return. The 7 Mountains movement is intrinsically political, in that it seeks to infiltrate, influence and eventually take over the governments and public institutions of the world. Not exactly a humble ambition.
Of course this is a wacky idea and one that’s never likely to be achieved. That is not the point. Dominionists may never achieve their ultimate goal, but they can do a hell of a lot of collateral damage to real and innocent people in the attempt. The fact that Mrs Court’s church reflects the opinion of only a tiny minority of Christians is no more comforting than the knowledge that ISIS reflects the sentiments of only a tiny minority of Muslims.
And, it’s important to note that Mrs Court’s opinions on homosexuality do not reflect the views of Christians as a whole. Indeed, the majority of Australian Christians support marriage equality (an indisputable fact, disputed, nevertheless, by Mrs Court).
It is not necessary for Mrs Court to hurt the LGBTIQ community in order to be a Christian. But her fundamentalist stance is necessary to preserve her status as a Pentecostal pastor, a prophet of the New Apostolic Reformation and the public notoriety her anti-social views afford her. Her homophobia is strategic and entirely self-serving.
The fact is, while Mrs Court may have to settle for negative attention from the wider populace these days, it is still attention, and it’s offset by the reverence she receives from within her own church. Accordingly, she is reassured she is still ‘important’, still ‘relevant’, still someone whose opinion matters on a global scale.
Margaret Court could have kept her protest letter to QANTAS private. As Russell Jackson pointed out in his Guardian article, she knows full-well what happens when she goes public with her views: “It is undeniable I was – am – good copy,” Court has said.
Jackson claims Court’s provocations are ‘calculated’. He notes she was well aware of what would follow her ‘open letter’ to QANTAS, having started a similar firestorm in 2011. As she said of that incident: “My statement was akin to pulling the pin on a hand grenade and throwing it into a crowded room.”
But, she went right ahead; basking in the torrent of negative publicity that followed. Who, but a narcissist feeds on such negative attention?
And, in a response typical of a narcissist, when she received the onslaught of criticism she knowingly invited, she claimed it was she who was being bullied, she who was the victim of a campaign of lies, and she who was the sole bearer of ‘The Truth’.
Margaret Court ‘hasn’t bothered’ to educate herself about the iniquities of her position on homosexuality, gender dysphoria and marriage equality. She doesn’t care that attitudes like hers pollute the culture as surely as toxic chemicals poison our waterways. She is not the least bit concerned that her views fuel discrimination against members of the LGBTIQ community or that the result is alarmingly high levels of mental illness, addiction, self-harm and suicide – particularly amongst young, gay and transgender teens. None of this matters to Mrs Court as much as her own ego and desperate need for attention.
Margaret Court may or may not be a narcissist in the clinical sense. But her behaviour, her attitude, her choices, her hubristic refusal to educate herself and her cold-hearted lack of concern for the consequences of her actions, are certainly self-serving and narcissistic.
It’s hard to know how one should feel about Margaret Court. It’s all terribly sad really. She is both a comic and pitiful figure, despite the harm she is causing. Whilst reeling from my own experience with a malignant narcissist with delusions of grandeur, I asked a mental health expert whether I should hate the narcissist or feel sorry for him.
“Both,” she advised, “do both.”