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Crocodile Hunter—those conversion accounts—are they true?

Photo by Gary Tierney
Crocodile being fed at Australia Zoo

There is a widespread rumour circulating that Steve Irwin, the world-famous Crocodile Hunter, became a Christian a few weeks before he died.

The rumour was given impetus by an email multiplying across the world, bearing the name of a Pastor from an Australian church (initials R.R.), and giving specifics of the church in which Steve Irwin is supposed to have ‘come forward’.

The email itself (at least in its original form; it has since ‘mutated’ by others adding things) was entered onto our website email form in response to our (then front-page) article on Steve Irwin’s death. (Extracts from other correspondents' feedback is presented here.)

[NOTE ADDED on 21 September 2006: The person who generated it clearly believed it to be factual and was trying to be helpful; our response was to phone her, at which time we determined that she genuinely believed it to be true, and was passing it on for our information. We indicated that we would need to check it out further, which we did. This included ringing the church where it was alleged to have happened.]

BUT IS THE STORY TRUE?

However, there is currently reason to seriously doubt this conversion account, as encouraging as it might be.

Note that the statements in it were made by the pastor (R.R.) in good faith; it was not intended to circulate widely.

As a ministry, especially considering we are located in the same general region (South East Queensland) as the Irwin family, and in view of the contents of our article, we felt an obligation to look into this report of conversion.

We have investigated the claims to the best of our ability, including phoning several of the churches and individuals involved. Though we were able to substantiate our earlier suggestion that Steve’s wife Terri was a churchgoing Christian, the stories of Steve himself ‘coming forward’ can at this stage not be substantiated. In fact, there is serious reason to doubt that this happened, at least not in the way that the stories claim.

Each time, seemingly reliable witnesses are invoked, but they are never the actual eyewitnesses, despite everyone’s (including Pastor R.R.’s) best efforts to confirm. At least one major church in another part of Australia announced it joyfully from the pulpit. But there again it turned out to be on the basis of seemingly reliable, almost impeccable eyewitness testimony—but testimony which could, again, not be confirmed, sadly.

We believe it is important to be sensitive to the hurt that these sorts of things can cause to Steve Irwin’s widow and the family. We would urge Christians not to be involved in circulating the R.R. email or any other unconfirmed reports. It is, ultimately, a matter between Steve Irwin and His Creator—and if the event did occur, then since Terri Irwin is a believer, she will be highly motivated to let the world know. Until and unless that happens (which would be joyful news indeed) we would suggest that any such rumours should not be passed on.

If you received the news from someone by email, feel free to pass on the link to this article so that they might act to help ‘undo the damage’ caused by these unconfirmed reports circulating. Our prayers are with the Irwin family at this time.


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