A Christian in Australia voting for The Greens at the moment is a bit like the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas (or Festivus or whatever we can call it these days).
I say this in light of a report in The Australian newspaper today that with the federal election running tight, The Greens have pushed the Labor Party should they win the election, to end any exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation for faith based groups. The article states:
The Greens have released policies that include the removal of religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act, putting this on the agenda for the next parliament and setting up a voting challenge for Labor.
I’ve heard all of the “Oh, The Greens are the closest thing to Jesus’ teaching we can get when it comes to community and social justice.”
Well perhaps that’s true in some areas, but their perspective on sexuality and sanctity of life are straight out of The Extreme Individualist’s Handbook For Navigating Late Modernity. Sorry, you can’t cherry-pick Jesus’ teachings like that.
This raises a serious question. Why would any Christian, regardless of their flavour, champion a group that seeks to quash the convictions of other Christian brothers and sisters, with whom they may disagree on these matters?
There’s a distinct silence from progressive Christians on this point. I ask it again? Why would a Christian champion a group bent on forcing the conscience of a fellow Christian through political means? I hear almost NO comment about this matter in the Christian conversation.
Surely a progressive Christian has, in Christ, more in common with a conservative Christian, than they do with The Greens? Don’t they?
Unless of course they don’t. Unless of course their primary identity is in their progressivism and not in Christ in the first place. Surely the Gospel calls us to bear with one another (meaning Christians bearing with Christians?) But that’s not what I am seeing and hearing from progressives on this point, in fact I’m seeing and hearing nothing. No sense of Christian unity despite differences. And to that I say, “Shame!”
I mean, there is an almost pathological disdain from The Greens for any moral community that does not reflect its own rather narrow, ideological and religiously secular framework. A deep inability to see the world from any other perspective such as a religious one, or to think that there are good reasons for anyone doing so. If you’ve got a different view of sexuality in your community to The Greens, then you are in the firing line.
This has interesting implication. If you are planting a church and looking to lease a school, or other public hall for your Sunday gathering then it’s going to get harder, if not impossible, to do so.
Think that’s scaremongering? I spoke to the senior pastor of a church of more than 500 just this week, who is dealing with this very issue, after a sermon from six years ago that dealt with sexuality matters, was trawled by an opponent and presented to the school board. A school at which they have been meeting at for their gatherings for many years. And 0f course, in the current climate, the school board was spooked.
The result? This church is going to have to use up a lot of time and energy sorting it out, showing it wasn’t being hostile or homophobic. Time and energy that could be focussed elsewhere (though let’s not discount God using what others meant for evil, for good. He’s got a habit of doing that!).
So if this thing gets up (and that’s a big “if”), the way many in Australia do church together is going to have to change. Maybe not this federal election, maybe not the next, but change it will.
Now that is not a problem in and of itself. The Chinese church, when facing severe restrictions during the Cultural Revolution, had a policy of “eliminating all that is not necessary”, and they did ok when the dust settled! And as readers of this blog will know, I have supreme confidence in Jesus looking after his Church without the aid of the state, thank you very much.
Anyway we might be in for a nice surprise. The Australian church may have to take a good long look at itself and its expectations of what the culture will and will not accept from it. It can then decide to cave in (and die), or stand strong (and flourish).
But in the meantime, there are some forks and twists in the road that we will have to negotiate. The Labor Party, thankfully, is less ideological than The Greens, and has the added complication that it will one day actually have to run the country, as opposed to standing in the wings egging things on.
I mean, imagine if all faith based schools (and I take it The Greens mean all faith based schools of all faiths), had to shut down tomorrow. How would the country fund the huge influx of students into the public system? (No, Greens supporter, printing more money is not the solution). There’s electoral oblivion right there.
Now, none of this is is any way to whinge about how bad we have it as Christians. Compared to so many others we don’t. But it does show that even though many Christians have been figuring out how, in a secular setting, we can live alongside with our deepest differences, groups such as The Greens have no intention of living alongside difference. Uniformity is their game, not unity.
Why is that? I suggest that above all else it is a sign of their ideological brittleness, and deep commitment to a substructure that is not only post-Christian, but hard pagan in its roots. Only those with philosophical confidence in the intrinsic value, beauty and workability of their own position can countenance true difference. But shrill, hard ideologies always feel like they are clinging on. They can’t share they toys in the sandpit. And, like a bully, they won’t.
For schools, churches, hospitals etc, that have confessional statements of faith and a commitment to enacting these in practice, there is much thinking to do over the coming few years. For make no mistake, the changes may not come in this year, or the next election, but come they will.
But for Christians of all persuasions there is a deeper level of thinking to do. Can we subsume our slants, perspectives and biases in order to stand up for Christian groups with whom we do not necessarily agree? More to the point, can I hear some progressive Christian voices standing up for their conservative brothers and sisters at this point?
Because that’s Christian unity right there, and it speaks a powerful message to the culture. All that The Greens have a take-it-or-leave-it uniformity, a mere shadow and parody of the unity that Christ gives his Church through the Spirit, despite their differences on some matters.
This is an awesome insight Steve. I’m feeling a little bit in the minority here as a conservative Christian. Only this morning I was confronted by a Facebook post (by a Christian) that inferred that any Christians that aligned themselves with the Liberal Party (or not aligned with Labor) were somehow an abhorant representation of Jesus. This comment was made in the context of the debate around policies pertaining to asylum seekers and seemed to discount any other policies on the right or left that either supported or corrupted other values Jesus taught. Kills me to see Christians be so polarising around political party alignment (as opposed to policy).
I don’t know if you missed it, but since the last Labor Conference, if any member of the Australian Labor party has an opinion that one man one woman for life is the norm, they can no longer be members of The Labor Party. They are compelled to be pro gay marriage. The Greens are just their cutting edge. Nature worship leads to all manner of perversions from “Made in the image of God, male and female made He them” so the image or representation of God cannot be made by people forming relationships with lots of others, same or not same sex, with animals, with children and as the deviation becomes worse, corpses.
BUT it was probably the promiscuous and hypocritical church that turned people away from God. preaching one thing and doing another. So we Christians can’t now throw stones at those injured by that hypocrisy, even if we personally weren’t part of it. But we did condone it by our silence. And how can we insist that people obey Our God when we haven’t? (even if we have repented and changed since we set such a bad example)
There’s a certain irony in your position of asking where is the unity from progressive Christians as you are in the process of saying that a progressive vote is incompatible with some of the teachings of Jesus … it nearly sounds like you are saying that a conservative vote is more “Christian” – certainly that a conservative vote will make life more comfortable for Christians (or keep life comfortable for us).
I agree that a little more discomfort would probably be a very good thing for the Australian church, but I don’t agree that issues such as school funding for faith-based schools and traditional views on marriage are related to the key teachings of Jesus.
Jesus very clearly taught that how we treat the ‘least of these’ is a reflection of how we treat him. I would say that in our society today that the ‘least of these’ include people who are Aboriginal, seeking asylum, mentally ill, drug addicted, homeless, imprisoned, Muslim (to name a few).
And unfortunately, neither of the major political parties see any value in creating meaningful policies to address change for these groups of people, as these groups have very little voice and power, so to ignore their problems (or in fact, inflame fears and misunderstanding about certain groups) is more politically expedient. This is where Christian voices need to be heard urging all parties to listen, as well as showing that this is where our attention and energy are focused, because that is what we would find Jesus doing – hanging out with the outcasts and questioning the power structures of society, not hanging out with the elite and reinforcing those structures.
I nowhere said that voting conservative is more Christian actually. If you want to read that into it that is off your own bat, nothing about what I said. I simply raised the issue that The Greens are no friend of religious groupings, Christian or otherwise. Or am I wrong in thinking that they have no intention of making sure a group as conservative in general as the Muslim community is not the target of their rather restrictive ideas about ethical communities and allowing them space to flourish? They are the friend of Muslims? Oh, yes, as long as the Muslims are shaped in their secular, post-religious progressive image, which, surprise, surprise, they are not. So, hey weary Muslims, worn out by enemies who won’t let you worship as you would wish, come to Australia, where we wont let you either!
And it’s not about funding for schools etc, it’s about The Greens inability to see that there is space in the community for people who think differently to them. They want to iron out anything from the public square they don’t agree with.
And my primary struggle with your response is that there is no sense that you would back your Christian brothers and sisters against this. But not that you are alone. There hasn’t been one progressive response on any social media platform about this blog in which someone says they would find The Greens desire to do this problematic. And that’s just sad.
I’m reluctant to pick this up in this medium, because I think we may be speaking past each other. But let me have one more go.
I think you’ve got two claims here:
1. The Greens are intolerant of divergent views on gender and sexuality and would like to close down public and private debate on this (because, on the most charitable reading, this discussion is likely to be harmful for people other than cisgendered straighties). This is a threat to religious freedom.
2. Therefore you shouldn’t vote for them, and to vote for them is to divide from your Christian brother.
I think the first is incontrovertible. The shame culture (so beautifully outlined in Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’), the name-calling, the presumption of bigotry, etc., is promoted by the Greens and by a faction of the left. Again, assuming the best motives, this is to protect the vulnerable (and certainly there’s plenty of hate-speech directed towards people because of sexuality and gender, which presumably we all deplore). But this a completely skewed view of how public discussion should be conducted in a pluralist society; it wilfully misinterprets and misrepresents conservative views; in protecting one set of victims, it unapologetically (and sometimes gleefully) creates a new set.
This is unquestionably a restriction on religious and political freedom. And when this intolerance gets enacted in law (as Julian Porteus has found in Tasmania, and some street preachers have found in Canada, and unfortunate bakers have found in the US and Ireland), suddenly the definition of ‘hate-speech’ can be very broad indeed.
The second, I think, is much more debatable, for a number of reasons. One of the key reasons for me is that I think that our democratic and religious freedoms aren’t just under assault from the left; they’re being devoured from both ends. The current government — in coalition with the ALP — has alarmingly eroded civil rights and the rule of law more than any time, I think, except the immediate aftermath of 9/11, e.g., asylum seekers tortured with no obvious end-game, Border Force, ’special intelligence operations’, unfettered internet surveillance, suspending passports (and citizenship), pursuing whistleblowers. This is also a threat to religious and other democratic freedoms.
Meanwhile, we’ve recently learnt that Tony Abbott was offered envelopes of cash (and he encouraged the mining industry to scratch Ian Macfarlane’s back, because he’d scratched theirs); Malcolm Turnbull’s been meeting with mobsters; Julie Bishop’s charging hundreds of dollars a head for networking lunches; Transfield’s MD has openly admitted that donations buy access to politicians; the millions ‘donated’ to political parties by fossil fuel companies ($3.7 million last year) grant them such extraordinary rights that they can even threaten the Great Barrier Reef and the best farming land in the country. Again, this is a bipartisan move to plutocracy, with both sides refusing any kind of federal anti-corruption overseer.
In these matters, Greens policies line up with conservative, democratic values of strengthening institutions and preserving the commons — values espoused on the Liberal Party site.
Because all parties have deplorable policies, I think (a) Christians should critique policies of all parties (including writing on their Facebook walls and to local members), and (b) any vote cast can’t be an indication of full-throated and blind support. It’s a heartbreaking weighing up.
As I’ve said, my current position is that a vote for the Greens is therefore thinkable in the current climate. (I couldn’t have imagined saying this even three years ago: I don’t think I’ve changed; I think the political climate has — a combination of one of the worst governments our country’s seen, coupled with one of the worst ‘oppositions’.) I genuinely haven’t decided how to vote at this stage: I’m just saying, I think the Greens are an option to consider, rather than one to be ruled out of court. (And again, I’m happy to be persuaded away from this, but I need some more argument on your second contention.)
Mainstream liberal denominations always align with political correctness and their membership declines. Our times call for careful spiritual discernment that can distinguish true believer from false (1 John is a good handbook). It’s important to find unity not with the greatest majority while discounting differences in theology and faith commitment, but unity with those in whom Jesus lives. Your companions through the cultural shifts may be few indeed, and it will be disheartening to watch many “Christians” aligning themselves against what is true and right and holy. Jesus alone can be counted on.
Lets not pretend that the Libs, Nats, ALP, Greens, or any other party serve the Christian community. Unless of course we serve a God not unlike the one presented by Supply Side Jesus:
When it comes to policy I find the treatment of refugees to Australia to be the biggest stain on our nation. I am saddened that only the Greens seem to be showing any sign of gracious policy in this area. While I may or may not vote Green I would hope that I have the courage to prefer the health and safety of these displaced people than well funded Christian schools and restrictions on my speech.
So how should I vote? I care for refugees and our environment. I want to see good stewardship (including financial) and deep consideration and discussion given to issues of large cultural change, with Christians free to speak their mind. I want protections for employees against the greed of corporate interests. I want to see producers in remote farming communities have equal opportunities to those in cities.
I can’t see that the sins of the Libs, ALP, Nats etc. are any less than the sins of the Greens. I admire the drive that members in each of the parties have to serve the country. Like others I abhor the self interest, and dishonesty we see in the process.
If people want to see less Christians vote Green then I would say the best approach is not to lambast (or baste) progressive Christian turkeys. Instead push for the right wing politicians to show more grace and mercy to refugees, while adopting policies with the long term health of our environment in consideration. If that were to happen the fractured policies of the Greens would be their undoing.
I haven’t decided yet who I will vote for on Saturday the 2nd of July, but I hope that Sunday the 3rd of July will be a day of prayer, song, and communion. On that day and until then I stand by my Christian brothers and sisters in praying that God’s kingdom come.
Some good points Kevin. And I don’t disagree with you on the refugee issue. I do think though that The Greens are given a hall pass as if somehow they are more aligned with Jesus somehow on many issues. I demur. My view on refugees is based on Imago Dei – as is my view on abortion. The Greens don’t hold to that overall Imago Dei concept, hence they can’t truly hold a Jesus perspective on the dignity of the human. My main point is that the other two parties are not pushing to extinguish space for alternate moral communities. That is a serious public theology issue right there. The Greens are deeply secular and want no space in the public square for alternate voices.
BTW – hope you are ok over there on the east coast. Praying for ya
It boggles my mind how anyone can equate a policy that results in the needles death of hundreds of asylum seekers at sea with the teaching of Jesus, or as a better alternative to anything… but there you go. Seeming good trumps actually doing good as usual with the greens twisted morality. I also find it strange that so many Australians, Christians and social workers I speak to, express such anger toward the government for it’s detention centre policy, then shrug off and ignore this much worse alternative.
Hey Stuart, I guess what you had not done, but in a more articulate manner than most, is say whether you would stand alongside brothers and sisters on this one, publicly, even if you did vote Green. But then again, no one did, or no one picked up on what I was asking.
However as far as the Greens are concerned, they look great on paper. And why wouldn’t they. So do the LNP and the ALP – on paper. It’s when you actually have to govern that things become tricky. So I guess the trick to it is to learn to govern justly in smaller settings. Say for example you have a farm and you are a busy well educated doctor with a busy wife, a couple of kids, and you also happen to be leader of The Greens. You are then in a position, in your small setting, to show the largesse and imaginative employment conditions that you constantly call for for workers in Australia, but you can do it right here, right now in your own mini-version of Australia as an example. SO when you don’t. When you show the same tight-fisted approach to your mini-Australia that you are railing against in the bigger Australia, you tend to lose credibility.
The primary target of my post were those who unthinkingly say that The Greens are most like Jesus. It’s a furphy. And a dangerous one at that. No one is going around saying the LNP or the ALP is most like Jesus. That’s why fundy Christians set up fundy Christian parties, none of whom I would ever vote for or ever have voted for.
Something I am never going to do – but have seen it – is put up pictures on my blog of partial birth abortions, full term. That the two major parties generally turn a blind eye to it, whilst The Greens positively champion this, says that there is something going on under the surface about the way the Greens thing about humanity that is just as pernicious as the rest. And their ideological refusal to counter the bullies (mobsters even) in the union movement, despite glaring evidence, seems to suggest when it comes to rule of law, ideology trumps what is right.
Now none of this is to negate what you say about the major parties, but then again I have criticised them also, and I hold The Greens line on refugees. I may agree with some of their other reasoning (Great Barrier Reef etc), but I come at it from a fundamentally different perspective – that of a created order made by a good and creative Creator. It’s worth watching the trajectory of a belief system sometimes too, you know. That’s why I put them on the spot, because to simply say that they’re the closest thing to Jesus – as many do (not you though) – is naive in the extreme. They’ve got as poor a record at actual democracy and value of human flourishing as the next party. That’s all I have been saying.
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