The Gospels of John and Kevin

10 Aug

There are churches and churches, as even Jim Wallace of the conservative Australian Christian Lobby conceded on Lateline last night. (See SourceWatch for more on ACL, and go here to find vodcasts of “Christian community hears from Howard, Rudd” and “Tony Jones talks to Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby” or check Lateline August 9, 2007 for transcripts.) I should point out too that Jim Wallace is not Jim Wallis! The second (American) Jim is the author of God’s Politics, and that Jim I feel quite close to.

John Howard makes a couple of points that grate on me somewhat, even from a Christian perspective. The Parable of the Talents, according to the Gospel of John Winston Howard, is the Private Enterprise Parable. It may also be read as a condemnation of hoarding, and perhaps JWH and company need in that light to look again at their beloved budget surpluses…

The second point grated because it was unreflective Christian arrogance. “The predominant religious culture of this country is Christianity. I always find it odd that you have to demonstrate your tolerance by denying your own heritage.” That line plays well in the wedge politics business but a moment’s thought will reveal what nonsense it is. Yes, Christianity in one form or another is the predominant religious culture of the country, which does not mean it is the predominant culture of the country. It could be argued (as the Gospel of Kevin acknowledges) that secularism is the predominant culture of Australia. No, Christians don’t have to deny their own heritage in order to demonstrate tolerance; I would hope they affirm their heritage through demonstrating tolerance. Nor is it necessary for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, agnostics or atheists to deny their heritages in order to be part of Australian culture, though that would seem to be a corollary of the Gospel of John W H.

Let me give an example of the unreflective monoculturalism or arrogance that infects some Christians, signs of which appear in the Gospel of JWH. (JWH? Surely Howard hasn’t really been God all along, has he??) A few years back I was on stage at The Mine at an assembly welcoming new students and their parents. The hall was packed with people from a range of religious and ethnic backgrounds, Anglo being quite distinctly in the minority. On the other hand it has to be said that hall was wall to wall Australians, as The Mine has no overseas students at all. Also on stage was an Old Boy who happens to be a conservative evangelical Anglican, not uncommon in Sydney of course. I was there to talk about my role as ESL teacher. He was there representing the people of various faiths who conduct the voluntary scripture/religion lessons held one period a week, according to state school regulations. He took the opportunity to assure his audience that what they really needed was Jesus Christ. I sat there thinking this was hardly appropriate on this occasion and had an almost irresistible — but fortunately ultimately resistible — urge to leap up and shout “Allahu Akbar”!  It would have been no more or less appropriate, given the nature of the faces looking back up at us from the body of the hall…

The Gospel of Kevin has been out there for some time. See Faith in Politics and Howard’s Brutopia. I think it is good that we should be reminded that religion, specifically Christianity, is not a Liberal Party or conservative fiefdom. It never has been, though the Right has done its best to make us think so. In my own church our minister and assistant minister (Andrew and Dorothy) along with Graham Long from the Wayside Chapel “will be attending APEC protests in September in order to monitor police activity in response to the powers bestowed on the force by the NSW Government.” You may now read all about that on the front page of our church (and local) newspaper the (PDF file) South Sydney Herald August 2007. Not exactly in line with what Jim Wallace represents…

Jim Wallace was right about one thing last night, however. We need always to keep in mind that Australia is not the United States, and the religious discourse here is (even on the right) not the same here as it is there. Thank God! There are some issues — health care, poverty, environment, work place relations — where even conservative churches in Australia would look hopelessly “liberal” to many of their American counterparts. Again, Thank God! Gay relationships, on the other hand, is another matter altogether, even if that is not an issue where I go to church.

On a related matter, see “How the world-wide web is changing electioneering and could endanger political campaigning” on Spinwatch.


Mike in Tasmania went to one of the meetings organised by the ACL.

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Posted by on August 10, 2007 in Aussie interest, Faith and philosophy, Kevin Rudd, Multiculturalism and diversity, News and Current Affairs, Observations, Politics, Religion


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