Deborah Lovely (b. 1983) admits that when she first started lifting weights, she was not aiming to represent her country at the Olympics in that sport. She had simply wanted to improve her strength in hopes it might benefit her other sporting pursuits—especially the discus.
And train she did. Within a year she made the senior Australian team as the youngest ever (17 years old) elite female weightlifter. She went on to represent her country in a swag of international competitions, including the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester (winning three Silver Medals), the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (12th place) and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne (lifting 115 kg in the clean-and-jerk to win a Gold Medal in the 75 kg weight class).1
Although Deborah can justifiably be labelled a sporting ‘all-rounder’, having received awards for her performances in top-level athletics, cycling and rugby, it’s weightlifting that has become her forte—and she’s currently training hard to represent Australia once again at the Olympics, this time in Beijing.2
So what drives her to endure the arduous hours of training, week in, week out—is it for the glory of proving she is the ‘fittest’ of her ‘race’, in classic Darwinian fashion?
Certainly not, says Deborah, a committed Christian—though you could be forgiven for not knowing that, for news reports3,4 of her successes sometimes edit out Deborah’s unashamed acknowledging of Jesus Christ during her post-meet interviews.
But she overcomes media ‘censorship’ of her love for the Lord through her own website5 and by strategically using her high profile as a successful sportswoman to take a message of hope directly to those who need to hear it. That’s the single biggest change in Deborah’s life resulting from her sporting victories—invitations for her to address schools and youth camps/events now come from far and wide.
But doesn’t she mind having to drive, say, for two hours each way just to speak to kids on camp for half an hour, all with no remuneration?
Deborah helps out every year as a youth leader on a Christian ‘outreach’ summer camp, and she says that ‘there’s always lots of questions about creation/evolution from kids who don’t attend church.
For Deborah, it’s no problem to ‘give an answer’, as per 1 Peter 3:15, and she acknowledges the role her parents had in that. ‘Mum and Dad took us [Deborah and her siblings] to hear creation talks when we were younger, and bought swags of [creationist] books. We were brought up to accept Genesis as straightforward history, we talked about what a ‘day’ meant—an ordinary, earth-rotation 24-hour day. Sometimes I’m amazed to hear some people in the church don’t accept six-day creation. One thing that was a big influence on us was Creation magazine—it has been a huge help in equipping us to give answers to those kids.’
And not just kids. Adults, too, have questions.
‘Paradoxically, people I know who do science [at university] recognize that the supposed big bang couldn’t have created everything, but are unwilling to accept that the Creator is the God of the Bible.’
Deborah laughs at the notion that we’ve evolved, pointing out that she herself is a real-life demonstration against evolution. ‘I remember reading the interview with the spine expert [the late Richard Porter, formerly Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Aberdeen] in Creation magazine.6 He pointed out that the curvature in our spine is the opposite of that of the apes (our supposed evolutionary ancestors) because the arch of our spine is perfectly designed to give us strength in an upright position, while apes go about on all fours.’
Deborah smiled as she continued, ‘I’ll never forget the example he used to emphasize that point—he said that humans, in relation to their bodyweight, can lift proportionally more weight than a gorilla. Well, I, for one, am living proof of that!’
As well as the many hours per week spent in physical training, and the increasing number of speaking engagements, Deborah somehow finds time to serve in the music team7 at the local church, and is a full-time student at Griffith University (Brisbane, Queensland).
Obviously no lightweight in the intellectual stakes, she is completing a double degree in Law/Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice and repeatedly finds herself at the frontline of battle in the so-called ‘culture wars’. Deborah is both amazed and dismayed at the number of her lecturers, tutors and fellow law students who are apparently unaware of (or wilfully deny) the foundational basis of Law—that we have absolute moral laws only because there is an Absolute Moral Law-Giver, i.e. our Creator.8
Accusations against Christianity pop up everywhere, it seems. One of the prescribed texts claimed that Christianity was responsible for domestic violence. So Deborah refuted that in her research assignment, which she then submitted for assessment—and passed!
She remembers one occasion in particular when the lecturer made derogatory comments about references to the Bible in Law, e.g. saying something to the effect that ‘it’s just a throwback from history’. Deborah then went up boldly to the lecturer and stated that according to university policy (relating to all forms of discrimination), the lecturer’s statements were highly inappropriate. The lecturer then apologised to all the students in the lecture theatre!
Deborah has found that many people actually appreciate it when someone believes something strongly enough that they are prepared to stand up and defend it. She grins, and muses: ‘Maybe they felt intimidated, wondering if I was about to pick them up and throw them!’9
It’s clear that Deborah is passionate about issues of law and society, recognizing the gravity of the situation facing the (formerly Christian) West.
‘In our Western democracies, we see that the people with the loudest voice are getting the laws changed; they’re the ones who don’t want to have Christian laws any more. Even in my short lifetime I’ve seen big changes.
‘The abandonment of laws against homosexual acts and abortion—we can see even America going down, right in front of our eyes. Well, the Christians must speak up! I’ve spoken out, writing 30 letters to politicians on different issues, but one sole voice cannot do it—we need more Christians to get their voices heard.’
I asked Deborah about the number of Christians in top-level sport.
‘Sometimes it feels like I’m one of the only ones,’ she said, ‘but joining the Cool Choices team was so encouraging—to meet Shaun Hart [footballer] and Fiona Cullen [hurdler]—to know that there are Christian athletes that I don’t often come across.
‘Actually, that was the stand-out best highlight for me about going to the Athens Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Melbourne—going to the Worship Services.
Only about 40–50 athletes, meeting together at a church service, but we had come from a multitude of countries, all over the world, coming together to worship God. Makes you realize, it’s encouraging to know that there are other people who believe as you do, so you’re not alone.’
Indeed, we are not.