Saturday, July 29, 2006

Don't vote for Christians: vote Greens

Links on Australian Christians and voting
Here's a site run by the Evangelical Alliance with a wide variety of interesting resources and articles for Christians about Australian politics. The Australian media has all-too-often made the same mistaken assumption as the American media: that to be evangelical means being right-wing. In contrast, this site displays something of the breadth of political thought and allegiance amongst evangelical Christians. My two personal favourites: why Christians should vote for the Greens and why you shouldn't vote for Christians.

Love to hear your thoughts once you've stopped hyperventilating.

UPDATE: As you can see, there have been many comments on this one. By the way, the title of this post is not necessarily my personal advice; it refers to the papers that I suggest you read.

67 comments:

Justin said...

No hyperventilating yet... But I'd be keen to see some. I'm not sure whether your readers are the hyperventilating type, Bryon. :)

Looney said...

Just got back from 15 miles on the trail. Guess I should be hyperventilating.

Admittedly, a "Christian" party would terrify me here in the US. We have enough feigning of Christianity without trying to formalize the concept.

I still wonder about the Greens. For example, when they claim they are for Social Justice, what I hear is that they are for elements of North Korea's centralized planning. At least in the US, the gap between rhetoric and rheality can always be high, but it gets much higher as you move left.

byron said...

Jsutin: I assume there will be a mixture of hyper/hypoventilation, just as there is a spectrum of Christian political commitment. Though maybe I should start a poll...

Looney: I wonder how similar/different the Greens are in the US and Oz. Did you read the essay on why Christians should vote for Greens? If so, did it sound like the US Greens? Which elements of North Korea's centralised planning did you have in mind?

Alex McClean said...

Right on Byron. I had big chats with various people about this at the time of the last election and since then too.

It strikes me that it's too easy for christians to feel like they are voting for God at the poll booth. I'm really not convinced that this is right. Our electoral system is not based on any genuine faith in God and any points at which is says it is (prayers in parliament, references to God in constitution) it's kidding itself. That doesn't mean it's a write-off on the Christian scale of morality and ethics. In fact it is based on many valuable and worthy concepts (eg: equality, accountablility equal representation etc...) Whether these are being upheld all or even most of the time by our system is a debate to be had elsewhere. The point here is that Christians can vote for non-christian parties and candidates and hold them accountable to hold up very scriptural values through what is essentially a secular institution.

This means we aren't bound to voting only for christians. We are not bound to the idea either that only christian candidates are capable of upholding the will of God through our political system. As the article pointed out, almost every one of the Greens party's policies can be seen to be in line with social values expressed in the scriptures. Surely this is a good thing. right? The more people thinking creatively and hard about ways to see these scriptural values upheld, the better! It doesn't matter whether they are christian or not.

My battery's about to run out, so i'll stop the rant here.

byron said...

Al: keep ranting anytime as far as I'm concerned.

Ben Myers said...

"...why you shouldn't vote for Christians." Amen to that!

I get very cold chills down my spine whenever I hear someone recommend a politician "because he's a Christian".

byron said...

Ben: "You should let this guy perform your triple bypass - he's a Christian!"

jeltzz said...

As a person who would vote for Green if he actually voted, let me throw up a contrary idea though: the nature of democracy.

The theoretical nature of democracy in Australia is representative. You don't elect parties, or choose policies, you elect a person to represent you and your electorate. If you buy that theory, then there's actually a strong reason to vote for a christian, provided that that candidate irrespective of party is most likely to represent you.

I don't buy into representative democracy, but that would be a good counter argument for voting for christians

byron said...

Jeltzz:
As a person who would vote for Green if he actually voted
Why don't you vote?

The theoretical nature of democracy in Australia is representative. You don't elect parties, or choose policies, you elect a person to represent you and your electorate. If you buy that theory, then there's actually a strong reason to vote for a christian, provided that that candidate irrespective of party is most likely to represent you.
Perhaps, though I am not only a Christian. Also, I can be represented by someone very different to myself.

I don't buy into representative democracy
Why not? You think it's too idealistic or that there are theoretical flaws in it?

jeltzz said...

I think representative democracy is both a deeply flawed theoretical system, and a non-existent real entity: it's simply not how Australia works, and it's a sleight-of-hand to act as if it is how it works.

I don't vote because the only legitimate option for dissenting against a whole system of representative democracy is to abstain. It's a vote against the system itself.

Looney said...

Byron, I read the article about the Greens. The US Greens aren't relevant, except as they form part of the Democrats in our two party system. The article mentioned health care. A very talented young lady in my church just got rejected from a dozen medical schools. She will wait a year and try again. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that medical school slots are being rationed in the US. The AMA likes this because it doubles doctor salaries. The left likes this because it forces a free market medical system towards dysfunction - so they can implement a social justice, single payer (i.e. North Korean) system. Medical school will only be loosened up when they get their way.

Regarding the triple bypass, if a 90-year old dies on the operating table and the doctor is privately employed, then he is guilty of malpractice. If the same doctor works for the government, malpractice is impossible by definition. That is what Social Justice means here in the US.

If a politican makes a show of Christianity or Social Justice, I am always wary.

michael jensen said...

I don't think to vote for the Greens... however, I think there is some compelling logic here.

After you read Hauerwas you may well agree if you don't already.

byron said...

Seamus (= jeltzz): If you're unhappy enough with the entire system that you're willing to cop a fine each election,* do you propose a better system?

* For those from less democratic countries, voting in Oz is compulsory and failure to enroll and turn up on voting day results in a fine of AUS$20. There are many other Australian electoral idiosyncrasies. Technically, it's not compulsory to vote, just to enrol and turn up on voting day. You don't have to put anything on the ballot paper (=an 'informal' vote).

byron said...

Looney: it's always a shame when important terms are misused. It would sad to lose any hope for social justice at all!

The left likes this because it forces a free market medical system towards dysfunction
I wonder how far left you need to go before you get to such a position. Seamus?

MPJ: looking forward to Hauerwas. Any suggestions on where to start? (We've ordered The Hauerwas Reader: 700 pages of 'best of').

Looney said...

Byron, I should confess that I don't really think most people on the left or right are so cynical as I portrayed. I have periodically taken positions that I believed later were badly misguided. A neatly packaged position can hide a lot.

Then there are those who start itemizing sinister motives for why president Bush petted the first dog.

Drew said...

Thanks for the post Byron.

Keep prodding away...

From a historical point of view: Modern democracy provides Christians with a problem - the problem of choice. We're not good at this, and we (inevitably) get it wrong. There is a certain passivity in the NT writers with regard to governments...

jeltzz said...

Byron, while I certainly think there are better and worse systems of governance, I am far from wise enough to propose a system myself. I think, and I confess my thoughts in this area are heavily influenced by both Yoder and Hauerwas, that there is a certain propriety in Christians abdicating any claim to political dominion, while necessarily refusing to withdraw from the public sphere of dicourse and action itself.

I personally think moves towards direct-democracy, decentralisation and federation, are governmentally preferable.

As for the left encouraging systems towards collapse, it's the kind of debate I've heard quite seriously in Anarchist contexts; I think to entertain such a position you need to be militantly left in a way that begins to resemble the far right in many ways, and you need to be willing to employ a consequentialist ethic to 'write off' the moral losses of allowing human beings to suffer terribly while you push the system to collapse.

Not a morally defensible position from my point of view.

nicole said...

thanks for those articles byron - everyone should read them before whenever the next eleciton is (2007?)


...in our last local elections, i wanted to vote green but the local candidate was quite vocal in opposing scripture in schools. i did still end up voting for a party which gave its preferences to the greens, but it was a hard decision to make (especially being involved in student ministry!).

well, that's my story. ok.

byron said...

Thanks Seamus. As you may have picked up, I'm about to start on some Hauerwas soon. I agree about the let it gets worse until it collapses line being morally backrupt. Disquietening that I've also heard it seriously from Christians: 'the worse society gets, the brighter the gospel shines.'

Drew: passivity? Jesus Christ is Lord, is Son of God, is Saviour. Remember, these were the titles of Caesar.

byron said...

Nicole, which is worse, no scripture in schools, or no justice for asylum seekers, no environmental responsibility and no indigenous reconciliation? No scripture in schools, or no decent funding for public schools in the first place? While it is healthy to be sceptical that a single Greens MP (or even a whole party of them) would be able to avoid the latter, I would also be sceptical about their ability to achieve the former. Why are there some issues that are absolutely no compromise for Christians politically, while others we give up before starting?

Mister Tim said...

It seems to me that, in Australia at least, the choice between the left and the right (to categorise broadly) often seems to be couched as a choice between:

The Right - conservative morals, often seen as being more in line with Christian 'values' - but you also get more hard-core individualism and, following on from that, economic rationalism which doesn't always consider the needs or situation of all people/groups in society - and some people do lose out.

The Left - social justice - a more socially minded approach to economics and social policy. Maybe good from the Christian perspective of looking after the poor in society, but on the other hand 'may' sacrifice overall economic growth (the good of the nation as a whole?). There is also a broader approach to welfare, which, while ensuring that no-one misses out, effectively allows a greater capacity to cheat the system and take advantage of others (2 Thes 3:10 anyone?)

The Greens article was interesting, but whichever way you go you'll end up voting for a party that holds at least some policies that would appeal to a Christian and some policies that won't. It becomes a matter of balance and priorities to make a decision.

Anyway, there are Christians in all the major (and the more major, minor) parties in Australia so there are options there if you just want to vote for a Christian person - and the current leaders of the two major parties call themselves Christians.

byron said...

Thank Tim for the view from Canberra! I agree with your summary. I guess I just want to keep beating the drum that says 'moral' issues for Christians to care about are not the exclusive domain of the right.

JT said...

I think I'm going to like this site...

JT

byron said...

Hi Josh, you're in 1st yr right? Not sure we've met (apart from here, that is...)

Mister Tim said...

I guess I just want to keep beating the drum that says 'moral' issues for Christians to care about are not the exclusive domain of the right.

Well, to throw some fuel on this fire... the right tends to do a lot better at 'moral' issues than does the left. The treatment of asylum seekers is not good, but on the other hand has reduced people smuggling - perhaps a greater good? One could argue that there are no currrent Government policies that are opposed to Christian values, while proposed policies from the other side of politics are, depending on your point of view, against Christian values (e.g. pro-abortion, legalising homosexual marriage, religious vilification laws that would curb preaching against other religions, etc).

On the other hand, you might argue that policies that protect the poorest in our society, that provide greater humanitarian treatment to all people - citizens or not - fulfill the greater moral good in Christianity, i.e. loving our neighbours.

So, how do you go about deciding which party proposes a set of policies that are most in life with your beliefs as a Christian?

Ben Myers said...

"Which is worse, no scripture in schools, or no justice for asylum seekers, no environmental responsibility and no indigenous reconciliation? No scripture in schools, or no decent funding for public schools in the first place?"

Very well said, Byron. It's dubious to privilege one overtly "religious" policy over all kinds of other (possibly more profound) aspects of social policy.

byron said...

the right tends to do a lot better at 'moral' issues than does the left.
Only if you restrict 'moral' to a fairly small band of personal and sexual ethics.

One could argue that there are no currrent Government policies that are opposed to Christian values
Love to hear some replies to this...

jeltzz said...

I'll throw one straight up on the Government policies. I would argue strongly that the treatment of Asylum seekers runs deeply against christian-ethics. There is no sense in the government's policy of welcoming the stranger, of compassion for those in need.

Instead we have a policy that treats asylum seekers as suspected criminals and terrorists, holds them in detention centres that in some cases are worse than prisons, often for years at a time; we have a policy that redefines 'Australia' to exclude Australian territory, so that legal sleight-of-hand allows off-shore, and therefore out-of-sight, treatment of these people. And instead of acting as a deterrent to people smugglers, I'd argue that these policies drive them to more desperate measures.

The whole mentality of the policy is driven by "This is mine, I choose not to share". It's a policy driven by greed, protectionism, discrimination, and fear.

I'd hardly call it a policy that doesn't conflict with christian 'values.

Drew said...

the right tends to do a lot better at 'moral' issues than does the left.

The entire ideological viewpoint of what is called the right, but could perhaps be better termed neo-liberal, (and are thus radical and not conservative in an economic sense), is against a Christian view of the world. (Of course, any political ideology is.)

Is it a matter of what simply 'best fits' with Christian thinking? (I am deliberately avoiding the suspect concept of Christian values.) Does this simply create a veneer of religiosity that is mistaken for (and thus replaces) faith?

If, following Scripture, governments and authorities are instituted for the administration of justice and order, then I suspect this should guide our voting; not some misconception of what issues Christians should value, and which ones they can ignore or throw out.

For example, Hayek (the father of neo-liberalism) plainly admitted that were market values applied to relationships in families and community (ie. aneconomic), then they would inevitably crush them. But this is undeniably what is happening. Our relationships are increasingly being 'economised'. Thus neo-liberalism has - in my view - an injustice at its core, and is more of an enemy to relationships than the sexual values of the so-called left. Likewise, its exploitation of the environment while we wait for the 'demand' for green technologies is blatantly irresponsible, without any reference to a theology of creation.

Byron: A certain passivity . Of course, it is not passive with regard to the gospel. One recalls to mind the 'the nations are a drop in a bucket' passage in Isaiah. However, there is a distinct unconcern as to who the Caesar is.

'Tis like the attitude to slavery in 1 Corinthians - if one can improve the situation, do so, but regardless, the obedience required by Christ is the same, and you are Christ's freedman. Likewise, regardless of who makes up the government, the obedience is the same - it is Christ you are obeying.

However, as a democracy, we are disctinctly given a choice, (ie. an opportunity), and so we have a responsibility in exercising it. Although, to steal from Isaiah, our vote can often feel like a drop in a bucket...

Sorry for the long post.

byron said...

Thanks Seamus, though Tim did admit that asylum seekers were a possible exception (and I agree that we can remove the possible). How about other policies: indigenous reconciliation; foreign policy; kyoto?

byron said...

Drew: thanks for helping to reframe the discussion.

Drew said...

sorry for killing it Byron...

byron said...

Nah, you didn't kill it - just the usual blog phenomenon of conversations that...

matheson said...

My, my! Well Byron, this is what happens when you start getting political on your blog - 33 posts in 3 days. Nothing new under the sun indeed.

So, to get things back to eschatology then: what does it mean for our attitude towards participation (which Drew encourages us to take up responsibly) that these are merely secular authorities, in the sense that they are of this "age"?

Adrian said...

"You should let this guy perform your triple bypass - he's a Christian!"

What about "Trust this person to teach your child - she's a Christian"?

Or conversely, "Don't trust this person/school/system to teach your child - they're not Christian"...

Drew said...

Adrian, you'll get people hyperventilating again...

Matheson: Perhaps it's like the UN debate - little hopes in anticipation of the larger hope? Hope = a reponsibility?

Mister Tim said...

Tangentially related to Matheson's comment, should we even expect our Government to act as a Christian? Can we personify the actions of our Government in moral/Christian terms?

Two thoughts here:

Is the Government merely made of the people who are elected, or is it greater than the sum of the parts?
Should we elect people who will act in line with our views on the world as Christian's? Or, should we vote to ensure a party wins power who we think will institute, Government wide, policies that are in line with a Christian worldview?

If the former, maybe there is a case for voting for Christians first and foremost.

My comments on this post do contain some devlish advocacy, but it is making me re-think this whole topic. Anyway, it doesn't really matter who you vote for, since everyone knows that 'Yes Minister' is true and the public service runs the country.

Rachel said...

HaHaHa, we all know that it's Janette Howard running the country.
But in seriousness underlying ideologies of a party are very important. Will the party care for the widow and fatherless of our current epoch? The sick, disabled, poor, unemployed, indigenous, refugee? Sadly 'christian' parties seem to focus on homosexuality, abortion and christian education and Liberal/Labour seem to focus on the mythological economic growth and subsequent supposed trickle down effect to feed the poor (simplistic I know, but I'm in a hurry!).

Michael Canaris said...

While I'm a member of the Liberal Party (furthermore, I'm one of those annoying chaps who votes below the line for the Senate/Legislative Council so I can place the Greens after the ALP, since I view the deals that are done on preferences from Head Office as inherently corrupting), I'm far from hyperventilating.

A party is the sum of its parts; besides ideological soundness, one ought also look for personal integrity and avoidance of conflicts of interest in candidates.

byron said...

Michael, it's a shame your blog no longer has comments - I'd love to discuss one of your posts. If you come back and read this, let me know.

byron said...

Thanks Adrian, for pointing out that not all tasks are equally shaped by Christian belief or otherwise. Good point. Nonetheless, I maintain that many of the skills and assumptions that make for running a country well are not exclusively Christian (though they may rely on the shadows of Christendom that continue to haunt the West (in both good and bad ways)).

Tim & Rachel: it's got to be both doesn't it? We can't ignore either the specificities of the individual nor the contours of the party they represent. Which is to take precedence? While I heartily encourage thoughtful Christians into politics (particularly those with similar ideas to me!), I'm not sure that only Christians have the personal integrity that makes for good politicians (though I grant that they might have them more often on average, all other things being equal). So I think that party is important, at least in Australian politics, where crossing the floor is uncommon and harshly punished. I'd prefer a looser party system that leaves greater room for individual MPs to represent not only their party, but their constituents as well. While we're at it, I think I'd also prefer a more fragmented parliament, requiring more coalitians to form government, which further increases the flexibility of party-lines and the need to debate issues thoughtfully, rather than just number-crunch and 'play politics' (even though this latter may be unavoidable in practice, surely there can be different degrees of focus upon it?).

byron said...

what does it mean for our attitude towards participation (which Drew encourages us to take up responsibly) that these are merely secular authorities, in the sense that they are of this "age"?

Matt - sounds like another post...

Michael Canaris said...

Michael, it's a shame your blog no longer has comments - I'd love to discuss one of your posts. If you come back and read this, let me know.
Which post?

As it transpired, I returned to my blog after a few months absence to note the comments were primarily spam.

I'm thinking of closing my blog down (I mainly post on various Delphi fora anyway.)

byron said...

Michael: I was just curious about why you moved from St JtB's to Christchurch (even though this might now be old news). Don't feel the need to answer anything too specific or personal if you'd rather not, but I'm (a) generally interested in why people choose to leave churches, and (b) I know a few people at JtB's - and hope there hasn't been some ugly falling out that I haven't heard about.

Michael Canaris said...

Michael: I was just curious about why you moved from St JtB's to Christchurch (even though this might now be old news).
Which it is (I've switched back and forth between the two many times since. Somehow, my various plans in this area seem not to stick.)

(b) I know a few people at JtB's - and hope there hasn't been some ugly falling out that I haven't heard about.
More a false initial presentiment of one on my part; Rev. Katay's settled-in much better than I expected.

nicole said...

man, i wish there was a linear way to connect comment-discussions...!

byron said...

"Nicole, which is worse, no scripture in schools, or no justice for asylum seekers, no environmental responsibility and no indigenous reconciliation? No scripture in schools, or no decent funding for public schools in the first place? While it is healthy to be sceptical that a single Greens MP (or even a whole party of them) would be able to avoid the latter, I would also be sceptical about their ability to achieve the former. Why are there some issues that are absolutely no compromise for Christians politically, while others we give up before starting?"

i have to admit, the election of which i wrote came up before i'd really started thinking about politics or social justice. i guess my point is that it can be very confusing - particularly for young or inexperienced voters, or those who just don't understand the big picture - to reach a compromise between gut instinct (ie "vote for the green candidate!") and heart instinct (ie "don't vote for someone who doesn't think kids deserve a chance to make an educated choice about God!"). all political arguments aside, it's still easy to feel guilty for voting for the candidate who has great social justice policies but hates God...

i'm glad i'm thinking about it more now. maybe we should have a seminar at church before the next election...

byron said...

man, i wish there was a linear way to connect comment-discussions...!
Amen. The programming can't be all that difficult - and many discussion boards have far more intuitive arrangements for organising ongoing discussions - any budding programmers or Blogger employees: take note!

all political arguments aside, it's still easy to feel guilty for voting for the candidate who has great social justice policies but hates God...
Indeed - one of those (many) areas of life where there is no uncompromised option (though this doesn't mean there aren't still better and worse choices and better and worse motives).

i'm glad i'm thinking about it more now. maybe we should have a seminar at church before the next election...
Yes! There's a group of us who are planning exactly that - would you like to join?

nicole said...

count me in... i'd like to be better equipped to choose between degrees of compromise!

Adrian said...

While we're at it, I think I'd also prefer a more fragmented parliament, requiring more coalitians to form government, which further increases the flexibility of party-lines and the need to debate issues thoughtfully, rather than just number-crunch and 'play politics' (even though this latter may be unavoidable in practice, surely there can be different degrees of focus upon it?)

I think I would want to see some serious historical/sociological/political investigation on that point before being convinced :)

I vaguely remember a documentary shown by Mr Dunkerly in Year 9 Geography which looked at some major social/political disasters that came from parliaments rendered ineffective by such arrangements. Of course I got siphoned off into the science stream after that and haven't really made it back to geography/history since :(

(BTW.. to link to another blog theme... I also vividly remember a documentary shown in the same geography class which explored the aftermath of the 70s oil crisis and the long term damage that did to developing economies. I've never felt the same way about oil since...)

jeannine baird said...

Hey Byron,
Here's the link to the song I was telling you about at Refresh (the one that I think will keep me out of MTC). If you'd like to sing along, it's to the tune of Colin Buchanan's "Jesus is no fairytale"!
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=2611

byron said...

Thanks Jeannine - a very amusing little song. It was lovely meeting you on the weekend. And thanks for helping this post hit 50 comments!

Anonymous said...

Dear Byron,

To be frank I am a little shocked about your assertions in this blog. I was a member of EU while you were president at Sydney University and I had no idea you had been sucked-in by the trendy, looney Left.

I work in NSW Parliament and see every single day of my life the anti-Christian stuff that leaks out of the Greens and Democrats on a daily basis.

To name just a few:

The 'Religous Tolerance' Bill.

This bill was going to take away the freedom of Christians to talk openly about their faith and other faiths without crossing over the threshold of what an activist judge might deem as offensive to someone of another faith. To make these statements would become a criminal offence.

For eg. if in a forum a person asks what happens to Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists after they die, and the church minster replies they will be damned, this could be seen as offensive and hence a criminal offense.

The Greens and Democrats carry on about sedition laws and freedom of speech being curtained, but their real colours come out when it is an opportunity to curtain the freedom of religious speech of religious people. Two pastors in Victoria who are scholars in Islam have already been charged under similar legislation for putting on a faith discussion on Christianity and Islam.

The Equality in Education and Employment Bill.

This amendment to the Anti-Discrimination Act would not allow religious bodies to discriminate as to whether they wanted to hire a Christian or a non-Christian, and is a violation of the rights to freedom of religion and association. It is a clear attempt by the secular Left to infiltrate Christian organisations and churches and to essentially leave them ineffectual. On the bizarre end of the scale a church could not refuse employment to a Moslem or a practicing homosexual, even if they felt it contray to their theological convictions.

And I could go on and on but this is the tip of the iceberg. They daily attack Christianity and all it stands for political advantage all because we dare to be salt and light.

And don't kid yourself there is active evangelical Christians in the Greens, and from my knowledge their hasn't been an active evangelical Democrat since Karen Sowada. In terms of Christian values these parties are 100% moral wastelands.

It might not be PC but it is the truth.

byron said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comments and I appreciate the immediacy of these issues in your job, and the weighty task of taking a part in government. However, as you would have seen in my post, I never said that this is what I personally believe. I don't think I've changed my political take that much since EU.

However, I do wonder why there are single issues on the left that are considered 'deal-breakers' for Christians, whereas the faults of the right seem to me to be just as glaring. I don't think a Christian can safely be either left or right wing (or centrist - or apolitical for that matter). But then again, I don't think the aim is safety. Whatever our role in political discussions, I don't think our top priority is defending our rights.

And I'm curious - did you read the links I included?

Anonymous said...

Yes. I have read those links.

My point is that Left-leaning Christians are wasting their time on the Democrats and the Greens.

It is like a square peg in a round hole, they just don't fit.

I know there are many other issues that are important but the zealot-like desire by these parties to attack Christianity and Christians is illuminating. These groups hate Christianity so much they are even prepared to sell-out their core values if it means an opportunity to silence Christian people.

The 'Religious Tolerance' bill aimed to take away the right to freedom of speech, and issue that Greens/Dems are generally very vocal on protecting. But the difference is that it was Christians who they were taking the freedom off, so it was ok in their eyes and they formed the lonely 5 votes in favour of it.

Greens/Dems claim to be libertarian but clearly in this round their anti-Christian bias was a more important core principle than libertarianism and freedom of speech.

Forget left/right yadda, yadda. Forget feeling good because they are green, warm and cuddly. Let's get serious with the issues. This is the reality of the Greens/Dems today. I know because I see it every day.

In acknowledging that Christianity is a value system the Greens/Dems are hostile to that value system. And it is anything but a 'single issue' where the values do not align. In almost every facet (to be fair I stress almost) their value system is foreign to ours.

byron said...

Anon - thanks for coming back. I was a little worried with such an old post that you mightn't find your way back again. Please let me know if you get this reply too.

Regarding freedom of speech, I couldn't agree more. I think this is one of the key strengths of our present political arrangements, and according to Oliver O'Donovan is a key legacy of the influence of the Christian gospel on western society (The Desire of the Nations - see here and here for an excellent summary by the Social Issues Executive). The shrill and misguided response to Kevin Rudd's recent comments only demonstrates that too many people (and not limited only to Greens and Dems) seriously misunderstand what it means for Church and State to be 'separate'.

That said, I don't think it is the only or the most important issue facing our society presently. Preserving Christian freedoms is a worthwhile task, but not the only task. If they are removed, then we will still humbly and confidently share the gospel, even if it means being arrested or fined.

As for the Greens/Dems being deeply unChristian and hostile to Christian 'values' (I dislike the language of values, since it implies that we choose what is important for us, rather than recognising what God has made good), I don't doubt it. What I doubt is that any of the major (or minor) parties are not. Voting Christians are always choosing compromised alternatives. Every party is anti-Christian in various deep-seated ways (just think of the fundamental individualism at the core of the Liberal philosophy, for example). One advantage in the Greens/Dems is that you know what you're getting; there is no pretense of 'Christianisation'. Indeed, their vocal hostility means that differences can be discussed out in the open. And while there are serious differences with each party, by God's common grace, none are without merit either. Indeed, I think that the concern of the Greens for the poor and vulnerable (mistakenly expressed in their anti-Christian speech stance - a stance through which they are trying to protect against unfair discrimation of minorities by majorities. A good aim - bad method) is something that resonates for me as a Christian in a culture where individualism and consumerism are the idols that are so pervasive we barely see them anymore, even as we worship at their altars. I am not saying that Greens are perfect; I am not necessarily saying that they are the best party for a Christian to vote for; I do think there are some areas they get more right (less wrong) than the major parties.

I appreciate your firsthand experience and am not intending to belittle the importance of the battles you're engaged in day by day on these issues. I simply want Christians to break free of the misconception that there is an obvious choice in voting - and even to break free of the misconconception that our primary political and social obligation is to vote.

Thanks again for your thoughts and I look forward to your reply. Byron

byron said...

PS Having re-read your reply, I just wanted to add that perhaps it may be the case that the present leadership of the Greens/Dems is simply so closed to even hearing a Christian speak that there is no chance of real communication or discussion at all. If so, that would be sad. It is not, however, my experience of talking with a few rank-and-file Greens/Dems (nor the impression from the first linked article), which gives me some hope that they are not entirely a lost cause. I suspect that Christians are needed in every party and in conversation with every party, because as I said, I suspect that most have something good to offer towards parliament's deliberation on the common good (even if it is simply deflating the arrogance of others with some insightful criticism from a different perspective).

jeltzz said...

If the secular-left is so dangerous for its avowedly Anti-Christian stance, I fail to see how it is any less a peril to embrace the Right which, rather than opposing 'Christianity', rather co-opts, and perverts, anything resembling a Biblical position.

Christopher said...

If they [freedom of speech]are removed, then we will still humbly and confidently share the gospel, even if it means being arrested or fined.

I think this is an important point you make Byron. Sometimes we (Christians) are so concerned about protecting our historical right to share the gospel in schools, the workplace, universities, and other public areas, that we think the proclaimation of the gospel depends on this fortunate, but in no way necessary, circumstance.

It seems obvious, but it is easy to forget that much of contemporary Christendom doesn't have this right, nor did its roots.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the comment that the Right 'perverts' Christianity. From my point of view (and by now you have probably guessed with side of politics I am on) I see Kevin Rudd's comments with regards to Christianity and politics as a pervertion of the faith.

To quote from Kevin Rudd's article in SMH (9/11/06):

"Broadly there are two traditions: a privatised Christianity which holds that personal faith is all sufficient and that beyond questions of personal morality there are no particularly Christian demands on the public polity and politics of the country.

The other is a Christian social justice tradition that says that personal faith is incomplete unless translated into concrete action on behalf of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed both through individual effort and the collective agency of society through the state."

Here he is 100% incorrect. Most Christians believe a true reflection of Christ is to value moral issues and also social issues in our community. It is unfair to ask Christians to choose one 'strand' of Christian activism or another. And quite frankly I haven't met too many Christians who do not have a moral and social conscience. Christ would rightly want the whole.

How could a Christian remember the poor but forget the aborted child, and alternatively how could a Christian remember the aborted child but forget the poor? I am sorry but Rudd is totally wrong.

What I find hard to swallow about Rudd's political drive to reclaim Christianity is that it is all about talk but not accompanied with action. You can't constantly write articles and make speeches that the Coaltion can't claim Christianity (which I have never seen any claim by the way) when you completely fail to reflect on you own house and the tough decisions that you are failing to make as a party.

I will start to give Kevin Rudd's views on Christianity credence when he starts to make the tough decisions even when they are unpopular. For instance Rudd failed the litmus test when he and many, many other people who talk a lot about Christianity voted in favour of the abortifacent RU486.

As far as I'm concerned Rudd wants to have his cake and eat it to - use Christianity for political ends but never use it as the paradigm he bases his decisions on and risk unpopularity for the name of Christ.

I feel very strongly about this and until Rudd starts really 'walking the walk' I will not give his rhetoric any credence. Unfortunately I find this all too representative of the Christian Left in this country. It is for this reason that I prefer being brandished a political conservative and keeping my heart for the poor than becoming part of the Rudd/Beazley/Garrett mob who I think don't take the faith at all seriously.

If there is any consulation in this for those who hold an opposing view Costello sold out on RU486 also.

Finally, one often unmentioned point is that there seems to be this pervasive thinking in today's political culture and particularly in the media that it is good and encouragable for the Church to speak out on some issues - poverty, war and conflict, and IR laws as some examples - but it is a violation of church/state for the Church to speak out on 'moral' issues such as abortion or embryonic stem cell research. I think this bias is the height of hypocrisy. The Church and Christians should be able to speak and vote on all these issues without checking their Christian conscience in at the door.

Anonymous said...

To quickly comment on the defence of religious freedoms.

You must never take this freedom for granted. Just ask any foreign missionary and their will tell you how incredibly precious it is.

It is no good saying "It seems obvious, but it is easy to forget that much of contemporary Christendom doesn't have this right, nor did its roots."

So what? Would you like the religious police persecuting or arresting you for your faith? I do not know about you guys but I value my religious freedoms and would fight to preserve them.

And I don't disagree there are other issues but this is certainly one of them.

byron said...

Anonymous, once again, I agree with both your main points (that either/or is incomplete) and that religious freedoms are a blessing not to be sneezed at.

Are there Christians in Parliament (or soon to be running for it) who are not all talk? Whom do you see as consistently acting on their faith?

byron said...

And here's a great quote I just came across - I'll post on some of these ideas in the next few days if I get a chance.

In our idolization of modern secular democracy we have imagined that, provided our leaders attain power by a popular vote, that’s all that matters, and that the only possible critique is to vote them out again next time round. The early Christians, and their Jewish contemporaries, weren’t particularly concerned with how people in power came to be in power; they were extremely concerned with speaking the truth to power, with calling the principalities and powers to account and reminding them that they hold power as a trust from the God who made the world and before whom they must stand to explain themselves. N. T. Wright, from here.

byron said...

Anon, I'm also curious. Does this mean we shouldn't listen to Christian MPs who speak against abortion if they are not also putting into action policies that are concerned for the poor and the environment? I would not like to write off the faith of any brother or sister for whom Christ died, even if I don't think they have thought through all the implications of God's wonderful victory, or if they have reached conclusions which differ from mine.

The Church and Christians should be able to speak and vote on all these issues without checking their Christian conscience in at the door.
I agree that the media often fail to be consistent in their treatment of Christian comments.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, once again, I agree with both your main points (that either/or is incomplete) and that religious freedoms are a blessing not to be sneezed at.

My comments about religious freedoms were not directed towards you but christopher's comments. My apologies because I do not often blog and still haven't quite got the hang of it.

Are there Christians in Parliament (or soon to be running for it) who are not all talk? Whom do you see as consistently acting on their faith?

Hmmm ... do I answer this? I do not feel 100% comfortable about giving names but just to give you perhaps some idea a non-exhaustive list would include Rev Gordon Moyes, Rev Fred Nile, Andrew Stoner MP and Marianne Saliba MP. I feel I know the heart of these MPs well enough to comment, however there are many others. I pray that this would offer you and the other readers hope that Christianity for many is not simply a synical political device (similar to comments made above about 'values'). Of course this doesn't rule out the reverse possibility that it is sometimes used synically.

Does this mean we shouldn't listen to Christian MPs who speak against abortion if they are not also putting into action policies that are concerned for the poor and the environment?

I think we should weigh-up the comments of all MPs, Christian and non-Christian, with regards to all issues.

However a unsurprising aspect of democracy is voters tend to gravitate towards politicians who they perceive as sharing their set of values. I am not afraid to use the V-word in this sense. I notice you, like many of the people on this blog no doubt, as closet West Wing fans, would remember especially in the early seasons Josh's obsession with polling figures. The question he always loved being polled was "Do you feel the President shares your values?" Values is an integral part of politics because what people value frames what they see as politically important.

I used the V-word earlier in this blog when I said that Christianity is a values set. Often the implications of these values are hotly debated inside and outside our faith. However ultimately you, me and the rest of Christianity are bound to the values as unalterably enscribed in the Bible. I think reading through this blog you will find agreement on our values but perhaps different emphasis (ie. different issues get our goat to different degrees).

To cut a long comment short I feel more confident debating the details with a Christian whom I might disagree but share values with, than those whom I can not establish any shared value base. We simply aren't on the same page.

That said when it comes to policy we should listen and be informed by all opinions and arguments from all sides of politics. For instance, I do not let the stereotype of my side of politics stop me from advocating environmental protection.

Dave Lankshear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Lankshear said...

I deleted my above rant because there were some factual errors.

1. A vote for Fred Nile is a vote for Fred Nile. The NSW Legislative Council does not deal in inter-party preferences as might the "Lower House". The "Upper House" is more about the politician being elected.

2. Fred Nile Now Christian environmentalists can vote a little more in harmony.

byron said...

I was a little amazed/disappointed at the fairly one-sided reporting in that SC article. It would have been nice to have heard a little more from the Greens about how they feel they have been misrepresented by the CDP.

Still, good to hear that CDP are waking up to the environment.