Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Christian Values Guide to Australian Politics

As the federal election bears down upon us, voters are being bombarded with choices and attempts by political parties to manipulate the electorate by appealing to fear, prejudice and values.

Not surprisingly, the Christian vote is significant and the major parties play on this by claiming to represent Christian values. In order to help Christians chose who to vote for, we have developed this handy chart mapping Christian values against the policies of some of the political parties contesting the election.

To view a larger version of this table, click here:

Each Christian Value had a number of criteria supporting it. An answer of 'no' to any of the criteria under the particular Christian Value resulted in a failure to meet that value. In determining whether a party met each criteria their policies and other public information was assessed.

While all parties would like to claim that they can meet each of the Christian Values, it is clear that scratching the surface reveals an abject failure in adhering to biblical principles. For instance, the bible is clear about welcoming the stranger, caring for the poor, protecting children and sharing wealth. Yet all of the conservative parties failed these. Disturbingly, those same parties are promoted by conservative Christians as bastions of Christianity.

The criteria used for each Christian Value were:

When the bible talks of the stranger, it is talking of immigrants and refugees. Jesus and his family were refugees who fled into Egypt to escape Herod's plan to murder the first born of every family. On their journey they stayed in Bethlehem where an inn-keeper gave them sanctuary in a stable. Every Christmas, Christians … and even a lot of non-Christians … display decorations or send cards featuring the little baby Jesus in a Manger. Sadly, far too many of these same Christians oppose the UN Refugee Convention and support the Australian government's despicable treatment of asylum seekers. Part of the fear-mongering rhetoric is that asylum seekers are 'illegal'. Yet, if voters are so hung up on the legality of migration, then surely they must be upset with the illegality of the off-shore detention centres and the international laws that the government is breaking in relation to refugees, torture and treatment of children. Some will placate their conscience by arguing that the policy is saving people from drowning at sea. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in the number of refugees fleeing to Europe now that Australia's doors are closed, with a corresponding increase in drownings in the Mediterranean. Disturbingly, Australia is breaking international refoulement laws by returning some asylum seekers to their countries of origin in which they face persecution, torture or murder. There were some who argued that we only want 'genuine' refugees, yet half of the refugees on Manus Island have been given 'genuine' refugee status and are still imprisoned because Australia has no Christian values and refuses to welcome the stranger. 

A vote for this brutal regime is not a vote for Christian values.

Australian society is a cornucopia of culture. It includes the continent's first people, the traditional owners of the land. It includes people from all cultures, countries and religions. We are all neighbours. So to ignore the rights and recognition of indigenous people is not loving our neighbour. To vilify or try to restrict the practising of any religion is not showing love. Being a Christian doesn't mean allowing Christians to have more rights to worship than other religions. The Constitution clearly states that the Commonwealth shall pass no laws that restrict religion. So why are there parties running in the federal election with unconstitutional policies which brazenly attack Islam and want to restrict its religious practices. This is not love. Some of the conservative parties are in favour of removing or watering down laws against vilifying people based on race, gender identification or religion. Why would any Christian vote for a party that wants the right to vilify another person? This is not loving your neighbour.

Conversely, Jesus also commanded that we love our enemies. Of course, most of the people who are classified as 'enemies' of Christianity, don't really see themselves as that. For instance, many right-wing Christians claim that Islam is an enemy of the church, yet that would be news to most Muslims who love and accept Christians. In fact, many of these Muslims forgive Christians or other non-Muslims who are intolerant, violent or hateful. That is true love. Christians would do well to also love others. Voting for parties with anti-Islam platforms or promoting the work of white supremacists such as Geert Wilders is not loving your enemy.

Some Christians will spout slogans such as 'love the sinner, but hate the sin'. This usually translates into homophobic attacks on the gay community. This is not love. Disagreeing with someone is one thing and can be done in love. Attacking and vilifying them is altogether another thing and is not displaying love, no matter how it is dressed up. Many Christians seem to think that their votes should be for a party that opposes gay marriage … or marriage equality. The bible's own version of marriage is not one man & one woman. The bible has a history of polygamy, incest and even of rape victims being forced to marry their rapist. Hardly the prime example of marriage. You can love someone who's lifestyle you disagree with, but forcing your beliefs on to them is not love. A plebiscite on marriage equality is a waste of money. Gay is a sin? Who cares? There are plenty of gay Christians. People are born gay. Why should anyone have a say in whether or not someone else can marry the person they love? Stopping a loving couple from marrying is not showing love. Bring on marriage equality and let's call it, well, marriage. 

 Then there's Palestine. Not exactly our enemy, but some Christians treat Palestinians as such. Many Christians have swallowed the Zionist lie that modern Israel is a fulfilment of ancient prophecy. The New Testament is clear that the promises given to the Jews of a homeland in Israel, were taken away from them and given to Christians (Galatians 3:29, 'And if you be Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise'). So why would God suddenly renege on his own word? Zionism is a twisting of scripture and is based on a lie: 'A land without people for people without a land'. The land did have people: Palestinians who'd been there for thousands of years. Even Jewish scripture talks of Palestine. Maps and history books show Palestine existed. Yet Zionists have worked their magic to convince the world that Palestine has no legitimacy. '… for people without a land' is also a lie as Israel is now comprised predominantly of European Jews who did have a land: Europe. Albeit it needed rebuilding after World War 2, but that is what most Europeans did. Zionism is not scriptural and is not a Christian value. Besides, scripture or no scripture, genocide and ethnic cleansing have no place in Christian values.

There is a little parable in the bible about the sheep and the goats. It describes the sheep as being those who cared for the poor, visited the sick and the prisoner, clothed the naked, fed the hungry. It calls them 'the least of these'. And 'whatsoever you do to the least of these you do to me', says God. Opposing the UN Declaration on Human Rights, or trying to stop the poor accessing welfare while the rich and big business continue gouging money out of the government and the community is not caring for the least of these; this is not applying Christian values.

'Suffer the little children to come unto me', says Jesus in Luke 18:16 and other similar verses. This does not mean 'make the little children suffer'. Yet Australia is deliberately and insolently abusing babies and children by holding them indefinitely in off-shore detention. Australia is breaching the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The government's response? Make it illegal for whistleblowers to report crimes and abuse, whether it be rape or child abuse. Children are being severely traumatised and abused in Australia's detention centres and right-wing Christians are supporting and condoning this. How can any Christian vote for this?

One thing that is repeated ad nauseum by fundamentalist Christians is that it is not the role of government to provide for the poor. I'm yet to see churches solve global poverty. One would think that if Christians truly cared for the poor, they would mobilise all resources at their disposal to combat poverty and care for the poor, including working with government and sharing their wealth. Sadly, right-wing Christianity is more concerned about accumulation of wealth than in redistribution of wealth. It has this mentality that the tithe will set you free. And all the while the poor continue to suffer

Some see tax as theft and are adamant that there should be less of it. This then begs the question as to how infrastructure and services will be funded. Those who argue for small government are arguing for the privatising of government responsibility. This only ends in higher costs and reduced services. Government traditionally was only interested in delivering services and projects for the benefit of the community, not in making obscene profits. Private industry on the other hand operates for one reason: profit. Profit at the expense of the community. The bigger the profit the better. So what could possibly go wrong by giving private industry the responsibility to build infrastructure and deliver services?

According to the bible, God created the world and that is within it. At some point he gave stewardship for his creation to people. Stewardship does not mean raping the land and polluting the environment. Christians should be voting for parties with policies that combat climate change and protect the ecology and environment.

God is a socialist. Get over it. While the bible acknowledges that there are rich people and poor people, the commands to care for the poor and redistribute wealth are writ large throughout the book. Perhaps Karl Marx plagiarised Acts 4:32-35 or Exodus 16:16-18, when he wrote, 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need'. As a reminder, in Acts 4:35 they 'distributed to each as anyone had need' and in Exodus 16:18, 'he who gathered much had nothing left over and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man gathered according to each one's need'.

Greed is not a Christian Value. Covetousness is not a Christian Value. Accumulating wealth is nto a Christian value. Share the wealth. For the love of God!

One would think this was a no-brainer, so it is surprising that so many Christians have opposed universal health care. Thankfully, Australians haven't quite lost their minds in the same way that Republicans in the US did. For years, the Liberal Party has been attacking and attempting to dismantle Medicare. The latest attacks have been in the form of GP co-payments, decreasing and limiting benefits or reducing bulk-billing. If Australia was to go the way of the United States, which it would appear that the Liberals would like, then we will see a significant rise in bankruptcies associated with expensive medical bills and people not being treated because they can't afford it. Denying health care is not a Christian value.

All parties, left and right failed the Christian Value of 'Thou Shall Not Kill', either because they supported war, abortion or euthanasia. Christians were responsible for most of the wars of the 20th century, not to mention the perpetual wars against Muslim nations for centuries, including the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this century. Millions dead because of Christian-led wars. While there are humane arguments behind voluntary euthanasia, it is hard to argue that the bible upholds euthanasia as a Christian value. Similarly, there are arguments around what constitutes 'life' when we discuss abortion. For the purposes of this exercise, abortion at any stage is considered ending a life. Why? Again, it's hard to argue that the bible would condone abortion. However, it's one thing to oppose abortion, it's another to do something about the primary cause of abortion: poverty. Many of those who picket abortion clinics or wring their hands over the murder of the fetus, also oppose welfare for the poor or payment of a living wage. It's easy to protest the symptom but much harder to target the cause.

Facetious? One would think until one sees how people lose their shyte at Christmas with the simple sharing of a meme claiming Santa will be banned or Christmas is under attack. No-one is trying to ban Santa or the Easter Bunny. The only war on Christmas is the one in which we see one of Christendom's holiest celebrations corporatised and exploited by capitalism. Nothing says Christ quite like an orgy of consumerism … oh, wait …

 At Christmas and Easter (and basically every other day), it wouldn't kill us to remember what these celebrations are actually about. Perhaps a quick read of the sermon on the mount or the parable of the sheep & the goats might help Christians, if not others, focus on what is important and what truly constitutes Christian values.

So the parties whose policies most reflect Christian values are The Greens, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Equality Party, the Sex Party and the Pirate Party, with the Nick Xenophon Team and Labor not too far behind. The conservative parties failed dismally because of their greed, selfishness, fear-mongering, bigotry and lack of compassion.

Surprised at the outcome?

After all, how could left-wing, socialist do-gooders be more 'Christian' than the conservative church-going faithful? Well, firstly, Christians are commanded to be do-gooders. Ephesians 2:10 states, 'For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do'.

It is a sad indictment of fundamentalist Christianity that these secular parties are more Christian than the so-called 'Christian' parties.

The bible is very clear on loving others as being one of the greatest commandments in the bible. It is not love to control other people's lives. It is not love to vilify others or to deny them the same rights that you enjoy. Love doesn't require agreement with others, however, attacking, vilifying or trying to restrict the beliefs, culture, lifestyles or identities of others is not showing love.

It is clear that a vote for a conservative party is not a vote for Christian values.