Thursday, June 16, 2016

On the "Christian Values Checklist"

Each Australian election, a coalition of Christian groups promote a resource called the "Christian Values Checklist" from the Australian Christian Values Institute, comprised of a list of twenty-odd "issues of concern to Christians", with the major three parties and a few right-wing minor/micro-parties evaluated. For each issue, each party gets a green tick or a red cross (or sometimes a question mark). The list has varied only slightly each time, but the contents are dominated by a relatively narrow set of issues in sexual and bioethics, along with certain privileges associated with the maintenance of a "Christian heritage".

The results mean that parties identifying as Christian typically get all green ticks, the two majors get a mix (with the Coalition faring much better than ALP) and the Greens get all red crosses except for the very last line, which is a generic environment question where every party gets the same green tick. The overall effect is far more important than the specifics. At a glance, readers are confronted visually by the idea that the more right-wing the party, the more "Christian" it is.

Each election cycle, I've posted some critical observations on this document. If they wanted to call it "our opinions on some issues we care about", that would be one thing. But they claim to be addressing issues "affect[ing] the very foundation of our society" and implicitly, the most important issues Christians care about, which is not true either empirically or (I would argue) theologically.

So, to limit myself to two brief comments:

1. What is left out? Heaps! A brief list off the top of my head: corruption, military spending and priorities, health spending and policies, education spending and policies, taxation, welfare, homelessness, Indigenous justice, DV, banking regulations, freedom of the press, economic inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, surveillance, foreign aid, foreign policy, industrial relations, agricultural policy, water policy, negative gearing, ABC/SBS funding, disability policy and more and more and more.

On some of these, one small(ish) aspect is singled out as the "Christian" bit: that wealthy private schools get "equitable" funding, that abortion funding be removed from foreign aid, that gender-selective abortion be removed from Medicare (interesting double standard there: if you're opposed to abortion overseas, why not make the abolition of all Medicare funding the issue?), and so on.

2. What is put in? Many issues where Christians disagree in good faith. Some direct contradictions (support free speech but want default internet censorship). And much that is oversimplified and thoroughly misleading. For instance, if the Coalition get a tick for their support "legitimate orderly immigration", then this means abuse and illegality are considered legitimate.

Yet the bit that makes me laugh the hardest every time is the final line.

As though the entirety of environmental policy can be handled with a tick or a cross, and then every party gets a tick! This is such a crass way of giving the most curt of nods to the near universal support amongst Christians for creation care (NCLS says that over 80% of churchgoers affirm it as part of Christian discipleship), while defusing it as an issue by saying that we're all greenies now and the differences between preserving a habitable planet and the thinnest veneer of greenwash are irrelevant.

So, as a document revealing one strand of Christian political beliefs and priorities, it is illuminating. As a document intended to guide Christians' electoral discernment, it is not.