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Extreme prejudice… 1

31 Jan

Let he that is without sin, etc…

Last weekend I saw Tony Abbott’s attack on Kevin Rudd’s version of Christianity as a stand-up comic routine. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Tony continues to reveal that his version of Christianity is a question of cheerleading for one line of thought. He also confesses, interesting for us oldies, that the true heir of B A Santamaria is Tony Abbott and the current Liberal Party — except for Santa’s sentimental belief in trade unions. That admission would once have sunk them without trace, wouldn’t it?

…The takeover of the Labor Party by secular humanists and the increasing influence of Catholics inside the Liberal Party are among the biggest changes of the past half century…

At the swearing in of members of the present Parliament, no fewer than 30 of 60 Labor MHRs took an affirmation rather than an oath on the Bible (compared to one from the Coalition). Kevin Rudd has tried to buck the trend by describing himself as a “Christian socialist” but, so far, it’s been a politically correct Christianity.

Voters seem to have concluded any affinity between Labor policies and Christian values is more by accident than design. The Australian National University’s 2004 election study shows that voters of “no religion” identify most strongly with the ALP rather than with the Coalition. Catholics, traditionally Labor supporters, identified with the Coalition over Labor 44.2 per cent to 35.8 per cent.

In the mid-’80s, Santamaria declined requests to encourage his supporters to join the political party of their choice and to improve it because, he said, both big parties were beyond redemption. Labor, he thought, was enslaved to the unions and the Liberals captured by business. In 1994 he refused to give me a preselection reference ostensibly because “it wouldn’t do any good” but, deep down, because he suspected I might win and challenge his prejudice that Catholics could never really advance in the Liberals.

With eight Catholics now in the Howard cabinet, he was certainly wrong about that. As well, before Peter Debnam, the five previous leaders of the NSW Liberal Party were Catholic. The Howard Government has overturned euthanasia laws, banned gay marriage, stopped the ACT heroin trial, encouraged independent schools, contracted Job Network services to church organisations, established pregnancy support counselling and improved the absolute and relative financial standing of families with children.

Of course, these policies were based on the Government’s political convictions, not instructions from the Vatican…

Let us forget for a moment that Rudd is drawing on at least one hundred and fifty years of progressive Christian thought, a tradition Rudd has outlined on more than one occasion, most notably in his two Monthly Magazine essays last year. What Abbott calls “politically correct Christianity” using the currently fashionable substitution of abuse for argument may be found deep in the Catholic Church as well. I am sure Abbott would have little time for much in the Jesuit online magazine (I still lament its retreat from the newsagents) Eureka Street; I am equally sure Kevin Rudd would be a warm supporter, even if the magazine is not uncritical of him. Part of a Christmas message by Andrew Hamilton in Eureka Street December 2006:

At this time of the year, all roads lead to the family. Christmas is family time. It is also a time for politicians to practise their pitch in defence of decent Australian families, Australian working families, and family values. We even have a political party called Family First.

Family First says that it is not an explicitly Christian party. That is just as well, because the claim made in the name of the party could hardly be less Christian. In Mark’s Gospel the greatest single obstacle to faith is to put family first. In the other Gospels, including the Christmas stories, the family is equally ambiguous…

Very few ordinary family people appear in the Gospel stories. Peter must have been married because he had a mother-in-law. But like other people of interest in the Gospels, he walks with Jesus around the countryside, supported by a band of women. Neither a man’s nor a woman’s place, it seems, was in the home. The people who embody faith were often previously lacking in sexual morality, and their lives were regarded as scandalous.

In the stories of Jesus’ infancy, the person who shows the most practical interest in guaranteeing the security of decent Palestinian families is Herod. He wants to remove the threat to their security posed by a baby king. And if we seek safe family norms, Joseph and Mary, who have to deal with an unexplained pregnancy, change residence overnight on the basis of dreams, deliver their baby in the fields, and leave Palestine as asylum seekers, are dangerous role models…



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3 responses to “Extreme prejudice… 1

  1. AV

    January 31, 2007 at 11:50 am

    At the swearing in of members of the present Parliament, no fewer than 30 of 60 Labor MHRs took an affirmation rather than an oath on the Bible (compared to one from the Coalition).

    Oh no! The baby-eating atheists strike again!!

    It is because of the power and influence of theocons like Abbott that books such as The God Delusion and The End of Faith are so important.

     
  2. ninglun

    January 31, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    I agree entirely, Arthur, and you have stolen some of my thunder in your post on The God Delusion, not that I mind.

    I would also add that books like God’s Politics by Jim Wallis are also important as they offer alternatives to the theocon’s version of Christianity. Since that alternative has much in common with liberal or left views of any kind, it is a contribution that benefits all of us.

     
  3. AV

    January 31, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I agree–and I really should read more of Wallis.

    I also think the political ascendancy of Rudd himself might turn out to prove an important counterweight to the Abbott/Muehlenberg paradigm.

     
 
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