Comparing how we do religion and politics in Australia to how they are done in the US is like comparing soccer’s “A” League here in Oz with the English Premier League.
Sooner or later, despite your enthusiasm for the local game, despite your talking up the talent, you need to admit the enormous gulf between the two. It would only take a trip to Anfield, The Emirates Stadium or Old Trafford (or Leicester City’s King Power Stadium for that matter), to confirm this.
You watch those slick passes (all made by foreigners not the local rubbish masquerading as talent), marvel at the pace and skill, and suddenly the “A” League looks like the local U17 side on a Sunday morning kick around.
Hence when I read that US conservative theologian, Wayne Grudem (he of that most upright but tedious Systematic Theology tome) believes that Donald Trump is a morally good choice for President, I have to put my hand up and admit that when it comes to religion and politics, the USA is playing a different game.
It’s as if Grudem skipped over Daniel 2 and still believes some sort of metal, or mix of iron and clay, ruler will do what only the rock not cut by hands can do. (I am preaching that chapter tomorrow night as it happens).
The US is a country that has enormous religious expectations of its politics and enormous political expectations of its religion.
Premier League expectations in fact.
And compared with that, the Australian version of mixing politics and religion looks decidedly pedestrian. So pedestrian in fact that both sides of politics attempt to liven up the lack of talent on the pitch with cheer leaders and fireworks off it; a failed and derisory attempt at making a Premier League mountain out of an “A” League mole hill.
Hence every now and then a shrill Lefty will bleat on about how John Howard and Tony Abbott (or Malcolm Turnbull for that matter) are beholden to some conservative Christian faction/cult/Knights Templar. Some will even write a book about it and tell scary stories to the children at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
And for every Lefty, there’ll be a Right wing shock jock who reveals how this or that Labor Party member was part of the Fabian society and its twisted aims push a strong socialism, godless agenda.
But like it or not Australians are decidely centrist. Even the Greens are finding that to their chagrin. The push for hard left politics in this country failed dismally at the last election (although the push towards the hard right is something of a worry – and hopefully only an aberration every twenty years of so to let off steam).
And as for the atheist push to get you to tick “no religion” on the census next week, well who are they? The Australian mistrust of authority extends even to them.
That difference is why a US Presidential Inauguration looks like a Hillsong service on speed, and why the swearing in of an Australian Prime Minister looks like a hastily arranged shotgun wedding at the local council chambers.
And that’s the way I like it. That’s the way I want to keep it. I have low expectations of my political leaders to solve the world’s problems, and as a Christian, I have high expectations of Jesus to solve the worlds problems, and to, in the time before his parousia, even ameliorate these problems somewhat by His Spirit through His church (the crucial caveat being the word “somewhat”).
And that’s why I don’t expect the Australian equivalent of Wayne Grudem to write a blog or a book endorsing any political leader any time soon as the solution to our country’s moral problems. And if they do it will probably end up on the same pile on which I feel tempted to put Grudem’s Systematic Theology at the moment.