Trump-lite is upon us in Australia.
The threatened schism between establishment political conservatism and the new anti-establishment version has erupted with the move by Senator Cory Bernardi to set up a new conservative party. Or a conservative party, as his backers see it, given how betrayed they feel by the Liberal Party.
What intrigues me is less the political machinations, than the response by many conservative Christians to Bernardi’s move. And I put my hat in the ring as both an evangelical Christian, and someone who is politically conservative.
Now, before our eyes, these two movements are blending, and I fear the results will be just as pretty as they have been in the USA over the past thirty years. In other words, pretty ugly.
The tone I am getting is that Cory is the one who is going to stem the tide against the Christian framework that has hurried apace in Australia due to the progressives march on the cultural, legal and political institutions of our land.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think that progressives have done much to destroy the underpinning fabric of our culture. Indeed they seem hell-bent on scorning, scrapping and excoriating anything that has to do with the Judeo-Christian framework that upholds many of our institutions. Hanson and Bernardi are simply pendulum swings, the letting off of steam by those sick to death with that.
A memorable term I have heard to describe this hard secular Leftist is “squatters” – they don’t intend to pay rent on the property they inhabit. They live there, enjoy the benefits, but refuse to acknowledge its source.
But if there are squatters on the Left, there are squatters on the Right too. In an in-depth interview with Bernardi in The Australian last year the good senator made it clear that he is not a church man himself. He likes the fruit of that gospel, indeed he says that as a nation we are built on the freedoms of conscience and association that sprang out of the church’s understanding of humanity. He’s just not that into the tree from which the fruit sprang. His ultimate allegiance is not Jesus.
And that’s my worry as I read my Facebook page of Christian people endorsing him who somehow think that this will end up anywhere except frustrated disappointment or gleeful victory – or a mix of both.
And there’s the same thing with Trump – hunt out some quote in which the good Senator gave Christianity a glowing tick to an audience that was looking for that comment.
But in the end the Trumps and Bernardis of this new reactionary conservative movement will – without Jesus – head towards self-interest just as readily as the Left did. The split is simply fracturing an already fractured culture in which the centre is rapidly disappearing, and the majority of people are keeping their heads down. The loudest voices are coming from the two ends of the spectrum. We’re not in this to be magnanimous to our enemies, we’re here to crush them apparently.
I gather what we will then see is that Bernardi’s good points (and he has many) will be used to excuse a whole bunch of the stuff that is politically harsh and inflammatory. The Left does it, the Right does it. Christians shouldn’t do it, Left or Right.
So if Bernardi Christiani is your thing, if you are happy with what has just happened, if you’re thinking that somehow this new reactionary conservative movement will embellish the gospel; enable the name of Jesus to be proclaimed better; or show the church of God as a suffering yet joyful people in the midst of a culture that despises it; go for it. Politically he might just pull it off – until of course the pendulum swings hard the other way and we find ourselves in the firing line again of those who hold the reins of power.
And then, to borrow a term from our progressive enemies that we are taught to love, we just might find that we the wrong side of history – yet again.