Editors comment: Amidst all the secular commentary on the recent election little has been discussed on issues of concern to many Christians. Our feature article this month is actually made up of two separate blogs written by Christian leaders in our nation who talk about the election from their different perspectives .
CONCLUSIONS FROM AN INCONCLUSIVE ELECTION
By Lyle Shelton Managing Director Australian Christian Lobby
Uncertainty and dysfunction are the new normal in Australian politics after voters seemed underwhelmed with the vision offered by the two major parties. Our nation is suffering from six years of instability in large part because both sides of politics have treated the highest office in the land like a game of thrones. While it is impossible to know if former Prime Minister Tony Abbott would have led the Coalition to victory, what is clear is that the knifing of sitting prime ministers not worked out well for either side of politics. This election was the Liberals’ turn to face this reality. Voter disillusionment with the major parties is at an all-time high and this is reflected in Pauline Hanson’s return and the rise of the Nick Xenophon team.
Others like Jacqui Lambie, Family First’s Bob Day, the Liberal Democratic Party’s David Leyonhjelm and Victoria’s “human headline” Derryn Hinch are likely to make up an expanded Senate cross bench. And in a first for Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP), his candidate Nella Hall is on track to take a Senate seat representing New South Wales. If elected, this will be a big breakthrough for the CDP which has long-held two seats in the NSW Parliament’s Legislative Council. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s campaign plea for stability was ignored as voters spurned the major parties in record numbers. Are we seeing an Australian-style Trump/Brexit phenomenon? Whatever the case, political and media elites need to stop dismissing the concerns of ordinary people by calling them xenophobes or homophobes.
The other big loser from this election was the relentless push to redefine marriage. This was the second time in a row a Labor leader took a pledge to a general election to legislate same-sex marriage within 100 days. For an issue that is a low order one for voters, it had incredible prominence again in this campaign. While same-sex marriage may have helped sand bag some inner city seats where Labor is under threat from the Greens, the issue does not resonate with the mainstream Australia where government is won and lost. With the Turnbull Government likely to scrape back in, even its agenda for a quick pre-Christmas marriage plebiscite now looks shaky. The likely slow-down is good because most Australians are yet to hear anything of the substantial case for preserving the definition of marriage.
The Senate will be a menagerie of vested and competing interests, making governing difficult and slow. The longer it takes to form a government, parliament is recalled, consultations are held and the Australian Electoral Commission is engaged the more likely a 2017 plebiscite looks. But all this presumes the new-look Senate passes the plebiscite enabling legislation. If it doesn’t, changing the definition of marriage will remain stalled. That Labor is unlikely to form government means Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s promise to continue taxpayer funding of the radical “Safe Schools” program is dead – another important outcome of the election. The Coalition will cease funding “Safe Schools” when the money runs out next year.
While there is no excuse for bullying, “Safe Schools” has more to do with teaching children as young as four that their gender is fluid. Volunteers coordinated by ACL and other like-minded groups letterboxed one million flyers highlighting the consequences of redefining marriage and “Safe Schools”. The enthusiasm of so many people augurs well for raising the army needed to contest the plebiscite. Thanks for your work. The ACL Team ran 34 Meet Your Candidate Forums during the campaign attended by 3044 people. It was great to see so many people come out and participate in democracy like this. Candidates need to see the whites of the eyes of voters and to hear their concerns first hand. I don’t know of any other grass roots community group that would have mobilised so many people in this way.
“Safe Schools” was the hottest topic at our forums and surprisingly many Labor candidates tried to deny the extreme nature of the material which could be easily verified through Google. Labor took the intolerant political agenda of the gay lobby to this election in its national platform. Had Labor won, laws guaranteeing freedom of religion for churches, mosques, religious schools and charities would have been reviewed. The challenge of the months ahead will be to win the marriage plebiscite and then to coax Labor back to the centre on social policy. These are the two big opportunities Christians have been given as a result of this closest of elections. How we respond to both will determine the character of our nation for generations. The days ahead are uncertain. Let’s be praying for those who govern us at this time. But let’s also be preparing for action. Our work is only just beginning.
SIX THINGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISCUSSED IN THIS ELECTION BUT WEREN’T
By Akos Balogh – Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students
Imagine having to listen to Donald Trump’s electioneering for 18 months. If you’re in America, that’s how long his election campaign for President will be, come the November election. Thankfully Australian election campaigns are much shorter. But throughout the recent election campaign, I noticed the following six issues didn’t get much, if any, airtime. Which is a shame, because we’d be better off if they were discussed:
1) It’s Impossible To Keep Religion Out of Politics:
Because all morality is faith-based. Should we have same-sex marriage? Should abortion be allowed? These political questions are moral questions, which means they’re ultimately ‘faith’ questions. As Christian scholar Tim Keller writes: Underneath all notions of morality is a set of non-provable faith assumptions that are essentially religious, and these are often not acknowledged. Keller continues: But the rules of secular discourse that reign…in government, politics, and the academy do not allow anyone to ever bring religious beliefs into public argument.’ Put simply: faith and politics don’t mix, or so we’re told. But what happens when we can’t talk about the beliefs that undergird our morality? Gridlock. Polarisation. Politics as usual.
Which is why it would be better if we could first admit that everyone (Atheists included) has beliefs that underpin their morality. We could then discuss those underlying beliefs, and come to a better understanding of justice, morality, and truth. Now that would be a conversation worth having.
2) We Have So Much To Be Thankful For In Australia
Why Can’t We Admit It? Whenever my Eastern European relatives come to visit, they’re amazed by how good we Aussies have it. But what surprises them is how much Australians whinge about Australia. How can anyone complain about living in this beautiful country? they say. Great question. Why aren’t we voters immensely thankful for our Australia? Why do we whinge so much?
3) The Next PM Won’t Be the Messiah
Government can’t fix all our problems. We expect so much from our political leaders. Whether it’s fixing the environment, crime, family breakdown, education, poverty, social injustice…the government must fix it all. Or so we think. And so, our party’s leader becomes the next Messiah, who’ll hopefully be elected to reign at the right hand of Her Majesty, and usher in heaven on earth. And many politicians happily bear that expectation. But of course, within a few weeks after the election, we realise they just can’t do it. Our political leader – the one we really believed in – isn’t the Messiah after all. And so we get angry. We become cynical. We complain. Oh that a politician would stand up on Q and A and say: I’m sorry. That’s a serious problem that government can’t fix.’ Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?
4) Good Governments Can’t Bring Heaven Down To Earth, But Bad Governments Can Bring Hell Up from Below
Just look at the 20th Century. Although good governments can’t bring heaven down to earth, bad governments, at their worst, can bring hell up from below. Which means we need to be wary of giving governments more power, even for worthwhile purposes.
5) Government Needs To Stay Out of the ‘Religion Business’
It’s bad for everyone: for both the religious, and the non-religious. Millions of refugees (including my family) came to this country in search of one word: Freedom. In particular, the freedom to have own your religion – and practice it openly – without undue government restriction. Religious freedom is the basis for all other basic freedoms: freedom of conscience, speech, and association. And yet, for the first time in living memory, that freedom is being challenged. Speaking of the religious freedom to proclaim the gospel, Christian scholar Tony Payne writes: In previous elections, as far as my middle-aged brain can recall, the issues that divided the major parties had very little impact one way or the other on gospel preaching. Should we have Medicare or not? Or a GST or not? Or tax cuts or not? Or WorkChoices or not?
He continues: These were huge questions that helped determine the outcome of elections—but none of the policies of the major parties on these issues made any material difference to the opportunities or space Christians had to preach the gospel that brings salvation. This time, however, there’s a good chance that they will. Speaking as a former refugee, it baffles me that supposedly pro-refugee parties want to erode such basic freedoms: freedoms that attracted millions of refugees here in the first place.
6) Why Aren’t We Talking About Families?
If families break down, so does society. Do you want less crime on your streets? Or better educational outcomes for schools? Less poverty? Less child abuse? Better mental health? Less welfare spending? Less Government Debt? The solution to these problems involves intact, healthy, mother-father families. Oh, and it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a cent: keeping families together would only save money. That’s the disproportionately large impact families have on society. (Of course, many couples and their families break up for legitimate but tragic reasons: domestic violence, adultery or abandonment.) And so a family’s large impact on society raises the obvious question: Why aren’t governments making it their urgent priority to help families stay together?
Conclusion: The Best Political News Is Found In an Unlikely Place. And it’s not Parliament House. It’s easy to get frustrated with politics. Broken promises. Incompetence. Cynicism. But the Bible has the best political news ever: the real Messiah is seated at the right hand of God, and will one day bring heaven to earth: Rev 21 – 1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” No matter what the final results of last Saturday’s election brings, the real Messiah will one-day return. May that day come soon!