So we’ve got another round of banning the Lord’s Prayer or reacting to banning the Lord’s Prayer in a Parliament somewhere in Australia.
You can read about it here on the ABC site.
What’s that? The 23rd attempt in five years?
I kinda feel comforted by this sort of thing. Mainly because of its regularity.
It’s a bit like the winter flu season. That bad boy arrives in the southern hemisphere in July, and when it does you know that all is well with the world, in an ironic manner of speaking.
Things are proceeding as they should; kids are not turning up to school, congregation members are not turning up to church meetings, men are complaining in droves about being on death’s door.
So when I learn that Victorian State Premier, Daniel Andrews, has mooted removing the Lord’s Prayer from the beginning of each sitting day of State Parliament, it kinda feels like the more things change the more they stay the same.
And that’s not all that stays the same. Each time this happens (and it’s happening with increased frequency) we get the same responses. We get the same “We’re a multi-faith society so we need to move with the times” responses from the progressive secularists.
And we get the “Gnash, foam, rage, we’re a Christian country that shouldn’t have to give in to minorities and all this PC nonsense!” responses from both actual Christians and cultural Christians.
Somewhere in the sensible centre sit a few others from both camps, saying that it’s a tradition that links us to important aspects of history and culture, and indeed a legal and political system.
Though quite frankly how “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” does anything but scare the actual hell out of all self-proclaimed worldly leaders, I don’t know!
Me? I can see why people want to keep it (Judaeo-Christian values and all that), but I have an aversion to any of the Church’s deeply held truths, symbols and articles being co-opted, and defanged of their immense power, by the State. Because, let’s face it, that’s what’s happening.
Why sully the Lord’s Prayer in the parliamentary chamber of a government that is busy enacting laws about euthanasia that deny many – if not all – biblical understandings of human life and its value, dignity and worth?
And while Premier Andrews says that he is himself a practicing Catholic, his public statements about many things are at odds with Catholic teaching. Perhaps he needs to practice a bit more, or a bit harder. Either way, he’s not practicing enough to get a game on Sunday, not from how I see it from up in the bleachers with my binoculars at least.
But at least the good Premier is mindful that such traditions carry weight, and he’s not pushing this unilaterally at all. The self-proclaimed leader of the “most progressive state in Australia” has some sense of history and decorum about him.
So in a sense I value The Lord’s Prayer too much to let it be kicked around by a bunch of pollies who, after the proceedings start, get stuck in to each other with a bit of verbal biffo, much as we did in the Baptist Basketball competition back in the 1970s when I was a kid. Two teams huddled. Two teams prayed. The whistle went. Two teams tried to beat the snot out of each other with a vengeance so mighty it was biblical.
No, my concern is more about what replaces it. What do you mean, what replaces it? Surely if we get rid of The Lord’s Prayer we replace it with nothing, right?
Wrong. As the ABC report indicates, there’s a call for a multi-faith ceremony to replace it, because, as is noted, Australia is a multi-faith society.
Now I have nothing against being a multi-faith society. In fact that’s what I expect to live in. On my long run on the weekend I spent a good 10km chatting with a Westerner who has aligned with Buddhism after some pretty horrible stuff happened to him in life.
And just this morning I had my beard trimmed again, and I lamented about the atrocities of Christchurch in the process with my Palestinian barber, who looked positively tearful, as I told him we prayed for his community at church on the weekend.
My problem with the Victorian suggestion is that a multi-faith ceremony lets secularism off the hook. How so?
Well, by offering a multi-faith ceremony, a secular institution such as a Parliament is giving a knowing wink to the rest of us. It’s a way of saying this:
We know what you religious people are like, we know that you are part of who we are. But don’t get any ideas that your worldview carries the weight that our secular worldview carries. Don’t assume that we see this hard secular frame as anything but the book that religious stories are written in to, rather than another chapter in the book itself.
In other words secularism is, as Charles Taylor called it, “the subtraction story” – the true bedrock of reality once all of the myths and legends have been sloughed off and we’ve reached base-beliefs. And as with all subtraction stories, secularism feels magnanimous enough to give the rest of us a little tidbit to keep us in line; to ensure we know not to rise above our station; to rest in the knowledge that the secular tone sets the rules of the game, then invites the rest of us to play it.
The reality is that secularism is as much a worldview about the makeup of reality as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, whatever. It’s as contested and as contestable as all of them. It’s just it doesn’t want to admit that. It wants to claim a perspective on the world that it refuses all others.
To throw a sop to “multi-faith” because “we live in a secular society”, is to totalise true reality under a secular frame and to refuse to admit that it too is part of that multi-faith system, with all of the saints, sinners and priests that other faiths have.
Granted there’s a supposed safety in a secular worldview (or at least there was as the New World was being populated by those from the Old World).
But, as has been stated so often recently, now that politics is the religion of our West, politics is being prosecuted with a religious zeal we have not seen in the West before. It’s frantic, desperate, divisive and each side brooks no rival. If there’s nothing above the secular state to keep it in check, not the least the fear of the/a God, then this thing ain’t got no safety brake (why hello China, Nazi Germany, USSR etc, etc).
So secular Parliaments of the nation. Be brave! Be honest! Junk it all! Throw out every pretence of prayer from your chambers and admit to us all, as your very actions prove, that nothing is above you, and, consequently, nothing is beneath you either.