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Thou shalt not vote Greens? (Australian Federal Election 2010)

I started thinking about the election here and here, and I think I’m decided: the Greens will get my vote as a Christian this year.  Here’s why.

Who should a Christian vote for?

I’m not talking about parties.  Which people should we have in mind when we vote?

The Australian Christian Lobby, as Jim Wallace recently said, wants to make the government ‘more Godly, more Christian’.  They seem to think that a Christian vote is mainly about helping Christians and Christianity, which would mean we have to figure out the ‘more Christian’ policies, politicians, and parties.  For the ACL, a Christian vote is about propping up our own rights, our own way of life, our own ‘interest group’.

Paul wants Christians to ‘do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’ (Galatians 6:10).  Well, the family seems to be doing fine in contemporary Australia so, as others have pointed out, I’m convinced that a Christian vote must first be a vote for others — for the last, the least, the lost.  Australia’s Christians by and large have a voice, so who will we speak up for?  It will be sad if Christian chaplains are kept out of schools (for example) but I think there are bigger fish to fry.  What about the voiceless?  I think that’s the deciding factor and, if it comes to it, I will put that ahead of other concerns.

I want the Senate to do its job

Firstly, it’s worth at least voting Greens in the Senate.  This is the argument of Frank Brennan, a Catholic law professor.  The Senate is part of the checks and balances in our political system, and I want to see the government’s ideas being discussed thoroughly.  Brennan argues that a Christian vote for the Greens in the Senate is justified because (a) they provide the kind of counterbalance that the Senate ought to have and (b) they have some agreeable policies for Christians, while their disagreeable policies are unlikely to get far, given the policies of the Big Two.  If we understand the way our political system works, the Greens aren’t monstrously threatening but might actually be good for something!

I want to tilt the system

I’m also voting Greens in the Lower House.  Earlier, I suggested voting to tilt the system.  Labor and Liberal both seem locked in a battle to preserve the status quo, trying to shout over one another with the same message — and it sounds to me like a message of fear and greed.  It disgusts me, and I want someone to change the game with a better vision, so I’m voting Greens to send them a message.  It’s an idea I got from An Onymous Lefty, who since then has been clearing away the confusion about what a Greens vote actually means.

I trust the local candidate more

I think Adam Bandt is worth my vote in Melbourne electorate.

Still don’t buy it?

To be clear: I’m ambivalent about the Greens as a party.  But:

1.  A vote for the Greens is not a vote for the Greens to run the country. If the Greens were placed to win the federal election, that would be another question — but a vote for the Greens in 2010 won’t put them in the driver’s seat.  It’s not a vote for Bob Brown to be Prime Minister.

2.  A vote for the Greens is not an endorsement of every Greens policy.

3.  A vote for the Greens is not an endorsement of Greens philosophy. Some people have been making a lot of noise about the Greens philosophy written by Bob Brown and Peter Singer during the 1990s, and it’s certainly got stuff in it that Christians can’t agree with.  Firstly, though, remember that there’s no such thing as a Christian party.  When a Christian votes for Labor or Liberal, they’re not staking their faith on a party philosophy, and the same goes for the Greens.  Secondly, as with any party, there’s more to the Greens than its ideological figureheads.  It’s worth hearing where Christian Greens representatives are coming from, like Lin Hatfield Dodds.

I wonder where this leaves you sitting?  I’m keen to hear your thoughts and questions!

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

63 replies

  1. Hey Arthur.

    Thankfully it’s only Monday and there is still time to convince you not to vote Green! ;)

    Few thoughts on your thoughts. Firstly you said, “The Australian Christian Lobby, as Jim Wallace recently said, wants to make the government ‘more Godly, more Christian’… For the ACL, a Christian vote is about propping up our own rights, our own way of life, our own ‘interest group’.”

    Now don’t get me wrong the ACL are not perfect (just like political parties) but I’m not sure that making Government more Godly or more Christian is actually about propping up our own rights and our own interests as Christians. Could it not be actually for the benefit of all humankind that the Government actually takes on Christian values. Humanity works better if it lives the way God intended it, and I know you can’t legislate the Spirit of God, but the Spirit works good fruit and that good fruit in our lives can spill over into some sort of general grace to all people through good policy based on Christian values. I know that in one of your previous posts you critic the limited nature of the kind of lists these groups call Christian values, and I agree they are limited, but I’m also not entirely sure it’s valid to say those values are less important than say treating boat people in a more dignified manner.

    My next problem is with voting to tilt the system. I’m not a fan of the idea because it’s not what democracy is about. You’re saying we should cast our vote in a way that will sort of level things out and mean we have a nice balanced parliament. To do this you are taking a guess (albeit it a reasonably good one) on the voting intentions of the entire country. You say, I think that most people will vote one or two ways so I’m going to vote a third way in order to ’tilt the system’. Great in theory. But the Greens don’t see your vote for them as some sort of attempt to level things out. Also, would you be happy if actually everyone decided to ’tilt the system’ with their vote? It would lead to a parliament that doesn’t actually reflect the view of the majority.

    Thirdly, just out of interest what has the local Green candidate done to make you trust him more?

    Fourthly the Greens may not hold the keys to the Prime Ministers office, but with the balance of power in the Senate they will certainly be visiting that office a lot. Disproportionately in fact when compared to the votes won. In Tasmania we had a Senator who held the balance of power and he wielded immense power, likewise the Democrats had great power beyond their representation with the balance of power. So you may not be voting for them to run the country but they will play a major role in the running of the country (the passing of the budget for example) with the balance of power.

    I agree that when you cast your vote it cannot possibly be a vote of endorsing all their policies. Elections are often about choosing the lesser of two or three evils, and I guess that’s what I’m saying. My view is that the sum total of the Greens is worse, both in terms of my own self interest as a Christian, and also the interests of others who need primarily to hear the Gospel proclaimed (and I want that to be able to happen as freely and openly and often as possible, that is the best thing for everyone).

    So yeah, happy to hear your thoughts on my thoughts on your thoughts! ;)

  2. Yes indeed, still happy to be convinced otherwise! Thanks for writing! :D

    1. Like you say, I believe that when more people live for Jesus, more people serve one another, and the world works better. But I think this is a question of who should do what. Governments are responsible for keeping order and restraining evil (Rom 13 etc). The Body of Christ is responsible for proclaiming Christ and is the (primary) channel of the Spirit’s work. I believe that legislating morality is of very limited use because it doesn’t involve changed hearts. We could have every single Australian ticking those 23 Christian values but that itself would mean nothing. I’m not saying those values are less important — I’m saying that they must flow out of the church, not the government. I have no faith in Christendom. The church must recover its spiritual mandate. The Kingdom is like a mustard seed, agonisingly small and slow, but poised to take over the Universe…

    And the Gospel is not always best proclaimed when the church has its freedoms.

    2. Tilting the system is not about balancing things out; it’s a way of telling the Big Two that they don’t represent me…

    3. I haven’t met Adam Bandt but he hasn’t been playing the fear game that other local candidates are.

    4. Agreed. And Australian politics can get stupid when the Senate just blocks everything. But as long as there’s not one party controlling both houses, I’m hopeful that the government and the Senate parties will compromise on both sides to reach decisions that are good for Australia.

    But here’s the thing. I’ve just been talking with a guy who’s a Christian and a political libertarian. He asked whether I’m being too idealistic about what political parties can achieve, and made the point that the major parties are at least pretty pragmatic in their approach — they have ‘more room for grey’. He’s got a real point — Christians of all people know how grey the world is, so we know that governments can only ever do limited good. And that is one great reason why Christians can vote Liberal or Labor.

  3. I’ll be the first to admit that this is the first year I’ve given two hoots about politics. A big part of that is that I no longer subscribe to (my parents’) view that if you’re a Christian your only godly choice is Liberal, or possibly Family First. Unfortunately that means that I now have to start figuring things out for myself, which makes me unhappy, but nonetheless…

    I understand very well the frustration of some Christians with the Big Two. Sure, neither are the most wonderful choice in the world. Labor has policy holes big enough to steer the Titanic through, and the Liberals (while I maintain are not as bad as people seem to think) are floating so far right they might come out left.
    And if you squint its sometimes difficult to tell the two apart.

    So while this is true – it is hard to put a mark in the box for either them, the question is… is the correct response to this impasse to vote Green?

    The ’tilt the system’ argument, about which we’ve already heard a great deal, seems silly to me. I mean, the fact of the matter is, despite what you think about the Greens’ policies, they are when it comes right down to it, an ANTI-Christian party. Not anti-God, as I heard a few nights ago, but they just don’t like Christians. They don’t like churches. They don’t like chaplains. They don’t like Christian morals. They don’t like Christians in government. They don’t like Christian schools. And presumably they wouldn’t be overexcited about our own theological college. The local Green on the moreland council doesn’t even like Christians hiring public meeting halls.

    So it seems to me that by avoiding the evil of having to pick between two parties who are considered not that wonderful, the answer is to vote for a party which deliberately and purposefully aims to work against many things that Christians hold dear.
    On top of that, when you look at the Green’s policies, even their environmental policies, they just aren’t that good. The ‘green’ policies aren’t sustainable, the boat people policies are naive, their economic policies are rough at best. And we all know the rest of their social policies which will continue to make an appearance as soon as they get enough power.

    And quickly, on that final point, the I legislating morality is a tricky thing. But its still illegal for me to kill someone. It’s still illegal for me to steal a baby. It’s still illegal for me to set fire to someone’s house. These are all legislated morals. If the government decided that they weren’t interested in these things any more, that its the churches responsibility, we wouldn’t be too happy eh? It is still the government’s job to legislate on morality in which the lack of would result in the lessening of someone’s quality of life. I would argue that many of the Green’s policies, if enforced, would do exactly that.

    Is voting for the Greens a decision based more on it being the cool, controversial, counter-cultural, hip, trendy thing for a young politically-frustrated Christian to do?
    Is voting for the Greens going a step to far in our attempts to be a generation of evangelicals sensitive to the subtle nuances of a increasingly ‘grey’ secular culture?

    I mean lets be honest. Liberal or Labor. Either will do a fine job of running the country if elected. They will make poor decisions. They will make good decisions. Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are not complete idiots, but intelligent mature individuals who really want to see Australia grow and prosper. So I agree, a vote for either of the capital ‘L’s’ can be a Christian vote. I remain convinced, however, that a vote for the lowercase ‘g’ is an unwise decisiont to make.

    So if you want to give the Big 2 a wake up call, vote for the Climate Skeptics or Shooters and Fishers.
    If you want to ’tilt the system’ vote for your local independent.

    1. Once again, thanks for the challenge, Pete! :)

      > So it seems to me that by avoiding the evil of having to pick between two parties who are considered not that wonderful, the answer is to vote for a party which deliberately and purposefully aims to work against many things that Christians hold dear.

      YES. To which I say, WWJD? :P

      I’m convinced that we must be prepared to give up our own ‘rights’ in service of others. ‘He made himself nothing…’

      It is of course an open question as to whether a Greens vote really is the best way to do that. But I think it just might be.

      Tamie has another angle on this in a soon-to-be-published post!

      Eric — you are a wizard. :D

  4. I think it’s right to vote in such a way as to balance other votes. When no one can become a politician without signing up with a major party, then there is a problem.

    Of course the way the Senate works, there is also the issue of people having been voted in at the last election. In 2004, the coalition won half the seats +1. Then in 2007, Labor+Green won half the seats +1, giving a nicely balanced house with Xenophon & Fielding in the middle. If all states split down the middle this time (most likely outcome), Labor+Green will be a majority because of their success in 2007.

    I have to vote below the line this time because there is no other way to place both the main minor parties ahead of both the majors. In SA, the last two seats will be one Labor v Green race and one Lib v FF race, neither of which has any bearing in who wins the balance of power this time (if coalition wins 2 extra seats then I think Xenophon gets BoP).

  5. I actually voted today. By postal vote. We’ll be out of voting range on Saturday.

    I have never preferenced the minor parties higher than I did today, nor the major parties lower.

    I think a vote for the Libs (the LNP up here in Queensland) is a vote for an abhorrent campaign that made an incredibly minor issue (actually, a major moral issue but they took the immoral side) one of their four policy pillars.

    “Stop the Boats” is a ridiculous policy that preys on the worst prejudices of the Australian psyche.

    I have a natural aversion to the ALP (probably genetic) – so I didn’t want to vote for them, and I hate the factional approach to politics and pursuit of power that is so ingrained in their culture.

    I’d love to see more independents like Xenophon, and more mavericks like Bob Katter and Barnaby Joyce – guys who want to see change in areas they’re passionate about (even if I don’t agree).

    I didn’t vote Green because I’m not a hippy – but they scored better in my below the line senate voting than they ever have before (they made the top ten).

    I think the notion that the Greens are going to stifle our freedoms are a bit odd – and I wonder why we deserve some of the “freedoms” they are targeting when all the church seems to do with those freedoms is evade tax (I’m looking at you, Hillsong). The Roman Empire didn’t exactly provide carte blanche for the preaching of the gospel – but that didn’t seem to effect the development of the church. Christians will evangelise even if we don’t have tax free status.

    Long comment, I know. I’m sorry. I did read your commenting policy.

    In sum. Worst. Election. Ever.

  6. Great thoughts Arthur. I’ll be voting Green and encouraging my Christian brothers and sisters like Lin Hatfield-Dodds and Jim Reiher as Green Candidates. Thanks mate!

  7. Pete’s claim that the Greens are “anti-Christian” is simply untrue. Unless you define “Christian” as “the ACL”, of course – but then you’d have to define many Christians as “anti-Christian”.

    Okay, yes, the Greens do hold that government shouldn’t discriminate against gay people. They also hold that abortion is a medical issue for the mother, and the state making it illegal simply puts women’s lives at risk. (Which, even if you think it’s outweighed by your belief that a collection of cells post-conception is “a baby”, is fairly undeniable.) But they’re not imposing anything on Christians with these – they’re simply saying that it’s not the role of any group to take basic rights away from another.

    And Jesus never spoke about either homosexuality or abortion, anyway. What He did speak about, repeatedly, is treating your neighbour as yourself, looking after the poor, being compassionate to those without power in this world. And those are issues on which the Greens are streets ahead of the other parties. They are interested in providing decent services for the poor – like dental care, which is STILL ignored by the major parties. And mental health, in which both big parties’ promises have massive holes. And treatment of those affected by drugs. And increasing Australia’s overseas aid. And treating refugees humanely. (Check the Make Poverty History campaign’s scorecard – http://www.makepovertyhistory.com.au/2010/08/15/make-poverty-history-election-2010-scorecard/)

    Unless you genuinely want the Church and State merged, are confident that if that happens it’ll be YOUR particular version of the “Church” that is merged, and if you don’t think that would do as much damage to your Church as the State, there’s nothing inconsistent with voting for a party like the Greens.

    PS the problem with the big old parties isn’t that they get things wrong, it’s that they’re based on a fundamental lie: that they can simultaneously represent people on completely opposing sides of an argument. If you vote ALP or Liberal you have no idea if that vote is going to help the left or right of that party – and those sides are very, very far apart.

  8. Nathan, apparently Akismet didn’t take a shine to you… But a problem no longer. *Fist bump*

    Jeremy, it’s worth noting that Jesus wasn’t some kind of blank slate on sexuality — he was an observant Jew and his teaching built on Jewish traditions of sexuality and marriage, eg Matthew 19:1-11.

  9. Arthur,

    I grew up in a left leaning family and voted Labor/Democrats up until 5 years ago. I used to think that Labor was the party for Christians to vote for. I used to hang around the inner city and Melbourne Uni, where it seems that most people (including the Christians) think the same way.

    Now I’ve radically changed my views as I have examined what the Left (and especially the Greens) stand for. I am now of the conviction that support for the Greens is something that greatly displeases Jesus.

    Before I go on to point out the flaws in your main argument, I want you to have a look at this picture:

    This picture puts to rest the commonly expressed idea that it is just a matter of how much subjective weight we attach to various policies that a party holds. If we give enough weight to the climate, or refugees, this counter-balances all the flawed policies that the Greens hold to. I hope you will agree with me that this is simply false. Some things are absolutes, and cannot be outweighed. Among these things are an open hostility to the Church, a desire to suppress the gospel, and a view that the unborn living are not deserving of protection. A vote for the Greens is to be complicit with the ravaging of the Church, which is none less than the persecution of our Lord Jesus Himself (cf. Acts 8:3; 9:4).

    Now, to your main argument: We should vote for others, not for ourselves.
    Your application of Biblical teaching here is disingenuous. Galatians 6:10 commands us to do good to all, especially to the Church. Yet you somehow get from this to the conclusion that we should put the world’s interests ahead of those of the Church.

    You say that the ACL is about “propping up our own rights, our own way of life, our own ‘interest group’.” This is far too simplistic, and simply untrue. The big picture of the Bible, from Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) to the last days, is that God blesses the world through his people — the Church. When the Church does well, the world benefits. More specifically, God blesses the world through the Church’s existence within it as salt and light, through its obedience to the Great Commission, as it holds out the hope of salvation to the subjects of the kingdom of darkness, and through the good works that flow from that salvation.

    A vote for the Greens torpedoes this entirely. The Greens have made it clear that they want the Church suppressed, and the proclamation of the gospel suppressed. In its place they will erect secularism and multi-faith pluralism. If the gospel is suppressed by the Greens, along with the people of God, there can be no blessing for this world or its people. There will be no hope or goodness for the refugees, or the poor, or the oppressed. To vote Green is to choose the very worst for the unsaved.

    Let’s look at Biblical situations where the governing authorities were persecuting the Church. 1 Peter is one of these. What does Peter command? Does he command his readers to cheer on the persecution of Christians because that will mean less suffering for everyone else? No. He says “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” and to keep doing good. Why? Because the Church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ” “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Peter sees the Church as a light in the world, a distinctive and holy people, which exists to proclaim salvation. This is how the world is blessed — when God’s people are there, living distinctively, living the Christian life and proclaiming the gospel. The world and the unsaved are not served when we give in to Green demands that we stop preaching Jesus and stop living and upholding the moral life.

    I was going to go on and talk about the book of Revelation, but I realise I’ve already said a lot and so I’ll stop for now.

    Jereth

  10. Arthur I just read your response to Pete:
    “YES. To which I say, WWJD? :P

    I’m convinced that we must be prepared to give up our own ‘rights’ in service of others. ‘He made himself nothing…’ ”

    Ok, let’s look at this properly shall we?

    Jesus made himself nothing so that we would be forgiven for our stubborn rebellion against Him, and so that we would come to love Him and desire to be like Him, and try to make others follow him too so that He would receive heaps of glory and worship.

    What you are advocating is that we (the Church) make ourselves nothing so that a very worldly, Christ-hating political entity gets the green (no pun intended) light to continue hurting us and wounding our Lord; and so that the people who they claim to support (eg. refugees and the poor) get to live in a values free world where they will never hear the Gospel.

    Very, very different, mate.

    Jereth

  11. “Among these things are an open hostility to the Church, a desire to suppress the gospel, and a view that the unborn living are not deserving of protection. A vote for the Greens is to be complicit with the ravaging of the Church, which is none less than the persecution of our Lord Jesus Himself (cf. Acts 8:3; 9:4). “

    Those are simply untrue. The Greens are not hostile to the Church; they just don’t agree with any religion imposing its views on anyone else. That includes other religions imposing their views on Christians. The Greens have no desire to “suppress” anyone.

    They respect people’s rights to find religion on their own, and not have it imposed by the State. Render unto Caesar, etc.

    As for “the unborn living” – well, Jesus never said anything about abortion. He did say a lot about the poor and hungry, though.

    “The Greens have made it clear that they want the Church suppressed, and the proclamation of the gospel suppressed.”

    Total garbage.

    “In its place they will erect secularism and multi-faith pluralism. “

    That’s the real world, mate. The only alternative to “multi-faith pluralism” is a theocracy, and you’d better be very sure it’s definitely going to be your specific religion in the driver’s seat if you really want that.

    Or you could practice your religion and leave other people to come to it of their own free will, rather than it being imposed by the state.

  12. PS That diagram on facebook is very misleading. Let’s look at its supposed “evils” of the Greens:

    To begin with, the Greens do not seek to deprive Christians of a public voice. They do not call criticism and evangelism “vilification” (although they do call actual vilification “vilification”, which it kind of is). They do disagree with any organisation discriminating against employees on grounds unrelated to their job performance – but since when is “discriminating against employees” a guiding Christian principle? I remember “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I don’t recall Jesus’ addendum to the Sermon on the Mount “it is important to sack people whose private lives you disapprove of”. They’re not suggesting “secular values pushed on children”, unless you define “secular” as “neutral”, leaving kids to find their own religion as human beings with free will. Likewise, the absence of imposing your view of “sexual morality” is not the same as “pushing sexual immorality”. Put it this way – would you like your kids forced to adopt Sharia definitions of “sexual immorality”? That’s the equivalent of what you’re suggesting should be pushed on other people’s kids.

    (I suspect that what you mean by “children taught that sexual immorality is normal” is “children taught not to hate gay people” – and I suspect that the latter position aligns much more closely with the Jesus of the gospels than yours.)

    As for chaplaincy and scripture classes – why should the government pay to indoctrinate one set of kids with the views of a particular religious group? That’s not anti-religious, it’s just a neutral position. If your taxes were being used to pay for, say, muslim instructors in schools, I suspect you’d feel likewise. It’s not the state’s role to endorse one religion over another – where’s the religious freedom in that?

    And apart from anything else, chaplains in schools are being put in a ridiculously difficult position – expected to do “pastoral care” with no such professional training. They’re being put into a legal and ethical minefield that does them, and their communities, no favours.

    Abortion – well, banning it has never worked. All it does is kill women, particularly poor women. The dishonesty of the “pro-life” camp can be measured in how it counts abortions – it counts, for example, every D&C procedure in the country as an “abortion”, which they’re clearly not. And, of course, Jesus never said anything about abortion.

    He also said nothing about Euthanasia. And what is gained by forcing people suffering from terminal illnesses in great pain who want to end their own life to do it unprotected by the law and putting their families and loved ones at risk of prosecution?

    You’ll have to point me to the bit in the Bible where it talks about embyro research and cloning. I’m also not convinced that those are Greens policies, anyway.

    Same sex marriage – yes, the Greens do not agree with government discriminating against homosexual people. What that has to do with Christians I have no idea. In what way does that affect Christian marriages?

    Adoption and IVF for same sex couples – again, so what? Where does Jesus say anything about this? How is this an anti-Christian position?

    (Presumably that’s what they mean by “Christian agencies forced to comply with immorality”, too – trying to get to lines out of the same point. Clearly an honest piece of propaganda.)

    As for more access to porn – what? They’re just saying there should be consistency in the classification system, as opposed to the stupid mishmash it is now.

    And “decriminalisation of drugs” is not the same as legalising them. The Greens simply view drug use as a medical problem – which it is – and recognise that the “War on Drugs” has made matters much, much worse. It’s turned a medical problem into a serious crime problem, putting all of us at risk from the underworld that’s grown up to feed it. If addicts were treated as people in need of treatment, then the problem would reduce. (See: Portugal.)

    I’m not sure the biblical basis for the “War on Drugs”, anyway.

    Basically, the entire left side of that diagram, all the “evil” Green policies, have pretty much nothing to do with contradicting or opposing Jesus’ teachings at all. In fact, they’re more consistent with the Jesus of the gospels than pretty much anything a so-called “Christian” party, like Family First, proposes.

  13. Hi Jereth :)

    Do you really believe that some government or other can damage the church so easily? I take it that the purity, mission, responsibilities, and future of the church is the domain of the Spirit and the Body of Christ, not of governments. It would indeed be foolish to pursue persecution, but we certainly have no need to live in fear. :)

    But this is getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Did you see the three considerations that end the post? :)

  14. Hi Jeremy

    Christians who place a singular emphasis on the recorded words of Jesus above all else are sometimes called Red Letter Christians — but there’s a fair bit more to Christian theology and ethics than that. That’s not to say that the usual litany of ‘Christian values’ is any more useful, just that ‘Jesus did/didn’t say it’ only gets us so far. :)

  15. Fair enough – I guess that I’m just constantly surprised by the Christians who put so much MORE emphasis on the stuff Jesus never spoke about than the stuff He did. People who will decide their vote, every time, on abortion and homosexuality, and completely ignore issues relating to the poor and the suffering. From my reading of the Gospels, Jesus was quite clear about what He felt was most important.

  16. Jeremy,

    The abortion issue is an interesting one… I’m not a single issue voter on it, but I don’t know that you’re being particularly fair to pro-life groups here. Are you as critical of anti-war campaigners? Because for the pro-life people the argument is essentially the same. If a fetus is a human life then its right to life should be upheld. It has no voice to defend itself etc…

    As Arthur says (somewhere around here) – it’s a really ethically grey issue and deserves more nuance than the far right gives it, but it also deserves a lot more nuance than the “woman’s right to choose” movement gives it too.

    For me, the Psalms speak enough of God’s involvement with our lives when we’re in the womb, and Old Testament laws treat striking of a pregnant woman where the baby is killed as causing death, for me to think that God thinks of unborn babies as human. At that point Jesus doesn’t have to speak on the issue, I would suggest it’s enough that he doesn’t speak against it for me to think that God’s approach to human life hasn’t changed.

  17. Hi Arthur,

    Yes, I do believe the rulers of this world can harm the church. It happened in Bible times (as many New Testament books, eg. 1 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews, Thessalonians testify), it has happened throughout Christian history, and it is happening around the world today. It is happening especially severely in the post-Christian West (which includes Australia) where atheism and pluralism are advancing.

    Of course the gates of hell cannot triumph over the Church, and the Church will always survive intact. And I’m not saying we should live in terror of persecution.

    What I am saying is that there are enemies of Christ who have been granted authority for a time, and if we are so foolish to lend them our support, we will find that we are hurt, and the proclamation of the Gospel is hurt. The persecution of the Church and gagging of the gospel does not achieve an ounce of good for the people of this world. So your argument that we should vote against our own interests for the good of this world is simply wrong. Your use of Galatians 6 is particularly curious, because Paul says that we should love everyone but prioritise the household of believers. It is through seeking the best interests of believers that we help the world. Romans 12 makes the same point — we are to bless our enemies and not repay them for the harm they cause us, but our primary love and devotion is to be towards other Christians. Jesus says “love your enemies” but the overriding New Testament ethical commandment is “love one another” (i.e. other Christians).

    As to your 3 considerations:
    “1. A vote for the Greens is not a vote for the Greens to run the country”
    But it is a vote for them to wield unprecedented power. 10 Greens in the senate, whose approval is needed on every item of legislation, is a conceivable outcome. Remember, senators are elected for 6 years. How old will you be in 6 years? How old will your children be in 6 years?

    “2. A vote for the Greens is not an endorsement of every Greens policy.”
    No, but it is surely an endorsement for the bulk of their policy. It would be foolish to vote for a party unless you can consent to two thirds of what they stand for. Do you consent to 2/3 of Green policy?

    “3. A vote for the Greens is not an endorsement of Greens philosophy.”
    I beg to differ. Protest votes are completely non-sensical. When you vote for someone, you endorse what they fundamentally stand for. The Greens philosophy is founded on atheistic humanism and prioritises the natural environment over human progress. They are also clearly pansexual. If you agree with that, fine — vote for them. But please don’t kid yourself that you can put them [1] on your ballot paper and not endorse this philosophy.

    If you are really intent on protest voting, why not vote for Family First or the DLP?

    I can tell that you are well meaning and very sincere, and are trying to think all this through from a biblical and Christian perspective, but to be quite honest Arthur, I think your thinking has fallen quite short in a number of areas. I’m happy to keep chatting.

    Jereth

  18. “If you are really intent on protest voting, why not vote for Family First or the DLP?”

    Because they’re creeps who want to turn the Church into an organ of the State and vice versa?

    “The persecution of the Church and gagging of the gospel does not achieve an ounce of good for the people of this world. “

    Fortunately for everyone that’s not what the Greens advocate or have ever advocated.

    “The Greens philosophy is founded on atheistic humanism and prioritises the natural environment over human progress.”

    No, it doesn’t. It suggests we should progress sustainably, though – which seems sensible, since the alternative is, by definition, unsustainable…

    Nathan – I hear what you’re saying, and I suppose if a person genuinely believes a recently-conceived collection of cells moments after conception is “a human being” with full rights that trump the mother then they’ve got a difficult choice – because the parties that agree with them on that issue are in favour of both of the wars our governments have recently engaged upon, which also – and without any doubt – involve killing innocent human beings.

    If you’re pro-life in all aspects – war, and pre-birth – then I don’t know what party represents you, because neither the Liberals, Family First, the DLP or any other of the anti-abortion parties are also anti-war.

    My suggestion would be recognising that abortion is never going to be stamped out by laws – if you make it illegal you just end up getting women killed in backyard abortions – and instead concentrate on the stuff Jesus did specifically talk about – peace, and support for the poor. And the Greens are not a bad choice for Christians on that basis.

  19. Hey, on the abortion thing, and without wanting to belabour it (because, to be honest, it is not an issue on which there is going to be any movement in the next parliament, from any parties) – is there any reference in the Bible which would contradict the idea that we become independent human beings in the womb but after our brains start to develop? I’m not sure why the verse that God “knew us” in the womb means that He “knew us” when our parents’ DNA first combined.

  20. Jeremy,

    Thank you for your comments but I can tell that you are ideologically wedded to the Greens and I am not sure if you consider yourself to be a Christian, so I do not think it will be fruitful if we get into a debate. I am waiting on Arthur’s responses to what I have said, because I think that him and I share a lot more in terms of basic assumptions — for example, that the Bible in its entirety is absolute and infallible truth.

    Jereth

  21. Hi Jeremy

    I can’t think of anywhere that the Bible spells out the specifics of the beginning of life process. The Bible isn’t a scientific document in that sense. And verses about God knowing us in the womb are more general assurances of God’s incredible love than arguments against abortion.

    But they do tell us that life before birth is precious to God. Where exactly ‘cells’ become ‘human precious to God’ is unclear but I guess to be on the safe side, most Christians have figured that conception’s a good place to start.

    Tamie

  22. Is it a safe place to start? If defining day-old cells as human beings (and therefore, for example, prohibiting drugs like RU486) ultimately results in later terminations and the deaths of women in backyard abortions? It’s not exactly safe for them.

    Anyway, I return to my original point that this election is not about abortion (which is a state issue, anyway), and regardless of who you vote for there is zero chance of the next parliament changing the abortion law in Australia. There is, however, a big difference that will be made on issues like welfare and refugees.

  23. I think sometimes Christians believe the secularist lie that secularism is neutral and all about everyone having their rights protected and living in harmony and disagreeing as long as we don’t get in each other’s way.

    There are a few problems with this. First, secularists promote a variety of views which a Christian simply put cannot agree with. Secondly being a Christian is primarily about inviting people into relationship with their maker. It’s about bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. By nature it’s difficult for Evangelism to exist in a truly secular society.

    I don’t think you can legislate morality, and I abhor the poor treatment of refugees and others less fortunate. But for their sake I must vote for the party that will make it easiest for Christians to freely speak and do Evangelism in a variety of contexts. What good is it if the Greens win lots of power and the refugees get to live in Australia for a while only to face an eternity far worse than the country they escaped from because Christians are unable to speak freely or without fear?

    I know Jeremy will argue this is not what the Greens are on about, but I don’t think it’s a big step to say given their ideology this is ultimately where they would like to see Australia. With less Christians having less of a voice and generally staying out of things.

    So I still hold out some vague hope for Arthur to change his mind!

    Also, on a random side note I’ve noticed the whole Jesus never said it argument used a lot. Arthur has already spoken to why that’s not a great argument a few times but I once heard someone say Jesus never said pedophilia was bad nor bestiality nor incest… So I suppose as Christians we should let them go? It’s the logical conclusion of the “Jesus never said it” argument.

    Finally, we should all drink beer and talk politics in a less adversarial impersonal way sometime!

  24. “Finally, we should all drink beer and talk politics in a less adversarial impersonal way sometime!”

    What Chris said!

  25. A correct moral view of abortion (and related topics such as embryo research) requires a comprehensive theological understanding rather than a few prooftexts. The Bible teaches that all human beings are made in the image of God (imago Dei), and therefore the bloodshed of any innocent human being is a serious offence (Genesis 9:1-6). The imago Dei is what makes all human life sacred.

    Furthermore the New Testament teaches that it is Jesus who is the true image of God, who came in human flesh (Colossians 1:15). The human body is as it were a vessel which was pre-designed to “contain” the Son of God (Romans 5:14). The Son of God entered human flesh at conception (Luke 1:31; Matt 1:18-20). He did not enter human flesh at the time of birth, or the time of baptism as some gnostics such as Cerinthus taught. Therefore, human life from conception to natural end is sanctified by its creation in the imago Dei and by the incarnation of the Son of God. If you say that an unborn embryo is not a true human being then not only are you denying the Bible’s basic teaching about humanity but you are saying something about the Incarnation of God in human flesh.

    All the texts which speak about God having relationship with people from before birth are consistent with this basic framework. There are a couple of Bible passages which teach that unborn humans (who die in the womb) share the same afterlife as all other humans: Ecclesiastes 6:3-6 and Job 3:11-19.

    Jereth

  26. “Is it a safe place to start? If defining day-old cells as human beings (and therefore, for example, prohibiting drugs like RU486) ultimately results in later terminations and the deaths of women in backyard abortions? It’s not exactly safe for them.”

    The “safety” argument only makes sense if your presupposition is that the life of a grown adult is worth more than the life of an embryo. If you hold that the life of a human embryo is equal to that of an adult (which you clearly do not, but most Christians do), then the “safety” argument is invalid. A pregnant woman cannot demand “safety” when she is deliberately subjecting her unborn child to mortal harm. An analogy would be a hitman requesting a method to kill his victim that minimises the risk of injury to himself.

    Jereth

  27. Wait, all the remarks you’re making about the human image, the human body, the human flesh clearly don’t apply in the cellular stage, do they?

    I can’t see where the “post-conception the cells are a human being” comes from.

    And again, I point out that the abortion issue is a state one not a Federal one. Whereas issues of welfare and humane treatment of refugees ARE federal issues, they WILL be decided tomorrow, and a vote for the Liberals, Family First or the DLP are votes for a very non-Christian approach to these matters.

  28. I disagree that a woman who terminates a pregnancy – even at the cellular stage, really? – is a “killer”, but in any case this abortion argument is a complete distraction from the issues that the next parliament will resolve.

    It’s on that basis that I’m suggesting that the Greens deserve your vote more than the other parties.

  29. “By nature it’s difficult for Evangelism to exist in a truly secular society.”

    Umm, Chris, do you want to re-think this one? :) The apostles seemed to go alright. (OK, so the ancient world wasn’t strictly secular – but it was at least as anti-God as the Greens considering burning, crucifixions and beheadings!) If the church is vibrant, refugees will have the chance to hear about Jesus.

  30. This is HOT!

    Rousing debate right up to the eleventh hour!

    This year I’m voting for global poverty (the alleviation of it, that is).

    While 30,000 kids die daily of easily preventable causes, I’m really not too fussed whether they offer a token prayer before parliament.

    So have a guess which party wins on this issue, then check your answers at: http://www.worldvision.com.au/OurWork/Campaignsadvocacy/MPHReportCard2010.aspx

    Don’t get me wrong, the 200 plus abortions in Australia each day concern me just as deeply, but since successive Labor and Liberal governments have not prevented us from being where we are today on this issue, re-electing one of the big two is hardly going to send a message. And what’s the worst thing the greens can do? Legalise something that’s already legal?

    But all that is quite irrelevant, since abortion policy is decided by state governments, and this is a federal election.

    But whatever you do tomorrow (and I know sincere Christians who will be voting all along the spectrum), do it in good conscience!

  31. Jeremy I am reluctant to debate you because I doubt either of us will change our minds, but you are spreading misinformation which needs to be corrected for the benefit of anyone reading this.

    1. “The cellular stage”
    I’m sorry mate, but I’ve got to inform you that you are still in the cellular stage. That’s right, your body is an organised mass of cells. And where do you suppose we draw the line between the “cellular stage” and the “post cellular stage” anyway? I studied biology and embryology at a university level, while doing my medical degree, and these pro-abortionist ideas about clumps of cells and so forth are completely false.

    2. RU486
    RU486 has got nothing to do with “the cellular stage” (if by that you mean the first day or two after conception when the embryo lacks an obvious human shape). RU486 is used up until about 9-10 weeks of gestation, by which time every organ is formed and there is a beating heart. After 8 weeks, a baby is not even regarded by biologists as an “embryo” any more.

    3. You’re emphasis on the “cellular stage” is a complete red herring in any case. Most abortions happen between 6 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. (“Only” about 800 per year happen after 20 weeks.) Women usually do not even know they are pregnant until about week 4-6. And the Greens party (to which you are obviously loyal) supports abortion right up until full term.

    4. Total rubbish that the DLP and FF are promoting an ungodly approach to the poor. http://www.australiavotes.org/policies/index.php?topic_ids=46
    Might I add that while you complain about us making this election all about one issue (abortion), you yourself give every appearance of making it all about one issue (refugee policy).

    Finally, please spare us the talk about abortion being a state issue. I’m willing to bet $1000 that you vote Green in state elections too. In any case, marriage, education, human cloning and many of the other issues of concern to Christians ARE federal issues.

    Jereth

  32. “By nature it’s difficult for Evangelism to exist in a truly secular society.”

    A truly secular society is simply one where the state is not run by any religious organisation. In these circumstances, evangelism is usually fine.

    The problem is, what the radical Left want is something quite other than a secular society. What they want is a society where a person is not allowed to walk up to another person and tell them that the god they believe in (be it Buddha, or Allah) is false and will lead them to hell, and that they must reject that god and worship Jesus instead. A society where a person is not allowed to walk up to another person and tell them that their adulterous or homosexual lifestyle brings them under God’s condemnation and they must repent. A society where these sorts of messages are not allowed to be preached in an open public gathering. In this kind of society, you will be charged with “vilification” and face fines or jail time.

    Google “Caroline Petrie” and you’ll see that this sort of thing is nearly upon us.

    Jereth

  33. Wait – you want the right to go up to other people and harass them? Does this work both ways? Are you keen on other religious groups having the right to come and harass your family?

    Jereth – by “cellular stage” I meant “when it’s nothing more than cells”. Microscopic, in other words.

    I note that your defence of DLP/FF policy about the poor does not contradict the point about their un-Christian approach to refugees.

  34. “A society where a person is not allowed to walk up to another person and tell them that their adulterous or homosexual lifestyle brings them under God’s condemnation and they must repent.”

    I suspect you wouldn’t be all that enthusiastic about people coming up to you constantly and telling you that your Christian lifestyle makes you *insert deplorable criticism about Christians here* and you should abandon it. Particularly in a context where Christians were, say, for the sake of the analogy, banned from getting married by the State.

    I’m not sure what any evangelist thinks they’d gain by going up to *insert type of sinner here* and abusing them, anyway. It’s hardly an effective persuasive technique.

    Anyway, vilification laws are, again, a state issue, not a federal issue. They have nothing to do with tomorrow’s election.

  35. Jeremy, I am quite happy to live in a free society where people can knock on my door and attempt to persuade me and my family of Mormonism, or Islam, or atheism, or whatever. They are most welcome to tell me that I am wrong, and headed for their version of hell, and that I should convert to their religion in order to be saved. This is not “harrassment” or “abuse”, it is “evangelism”.

    Similarly I am more than happy for people to tell me that I am a moralistic dickhead because I waited until I got married till I had sex. I am more than happy for people to tell me that I am an idiot for being willing to raise a child with a disability rather than abort him or her. I am more than happy for people to tell me that I am a chauvanist pig because I believe that I as the man I am the head of my family. I am more than happy for people to say that I’m an ignorant, obscurantist retard for not believing in evolution. I am more than happy for people to tell me that I’m a complete fool for giving 10% of my earnings to my church. You know, I’ve been subject to ALL of these criticisms at some time or other in my life and I haven’t gone running to a judge complaining that I’ve been “vilified”.

    Jereth

  36. Because you’re a member of a privileged group and haven’t really felt threatened, that would be.

    I don’t think the “harassment” Christians receive is anything like as intimidating as the harassment muslims and gays receive as minorities. Seriously.

    Not that it’s a competition, of course.

    I presume you’d concede that vilification laws have nothing to do with tomorrow’s election.

  37. Hi Jeremy

    Just picking up on the abortion thing again. Part of the question is how we think about human nature, and Christians throughout history have had a whole range of views on this, often in keeping with the prevailing philosophical assumptions of the time. The most common view amongst Christians today is a body-soul dualism of some kind or other (emergent dualism, substance dualism, etc), although admittedly this sometimes owes more to the ghost of Plato than Christian thought.

    Personally, I take a constitution view of human nature: human persons are wholly constituted by their bodies without being identical with their bodies. You could also call it Christian materialism: human persons do not possess an immaterial soul but are wholly physical and bodily creatures, yet are more than merely animal. One implication of this: it’s not self-evident that a human person is present at conception. But that doesn’t make abortion any less an issue; it assures me all the more that for the vast majority of a pregnancy, the human object in there is a human person.

    So I’m an advocate for safe, legal, and rare abortion. As it stands, I see abortion as a modern Australian atrocity. But like you say, abortion is not really up for grabs at the federal level in this election, while other things really might be changed — and that consideration is part of what’s driving my vote.

  38. Jeremy, this business about Christians being a privileged group is a total furphy. Come off it. I interact with many atheists, buddhists and a few Muslims and none of them are going around feeling threatened by the big bad Christian church. I also interact with a small number of gay people and I don’t see them feeling threatened either; indeed they are all living their lives quite comfortably. This is 2010, not 1960. The only people who seem to feel threatened are the Greens. Indeed, Bob Brown went crying to mummy because he got scared when a tiny little isolationist sect (the Exclusive Brethren) produced some anti-Green advertising.

    On the one hand, lefties tell us that 65% of Australians are in favour of gay marriage; on the other hand here you are saying that gays are feeling small and threatened. You can’t have it both ways mate.

    This sort of issue is very relevant to tomorrow’s election. The Greens are in favour of a Federal Human Rights Charter which is widely understood to be a tool for instigating legal action against anyone who offends another person on grounds of religion, race, sexuality and so on. Left wing judges will interpret “offence” in the broadest possible way, including the kind of actions and words that are considered “vilification” under state laws.

    And as I have already said above, there are numerous federal issues at stake where the Greens are bad news for the conservative Christian worldview, even if you consider that abortion and vilification are not among these. (By the way, if you go here: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/08/18/why-a-conscientious-christian-could-not-vote-for-the-greens/ and read a comment by “Mansel Rogerson” posted at 4pm today you’ll discover that abortion is actually a federal issue)

  39. Really interesting post (and discussion) Arthur!

    “Vote for others — for the last, the least, the lost.” Amen!

    I agree that it’s imperative to think of others, not just ourselves. I read that article by Dickson too – very helpful. There is no “Christian vote”. But in applying all of this, I’m heading more in the direction Chris Bowditch & Pete G as I consider how to vote.

    As a Christian, I believe the Gospel of Jesus is what is best for all people, whether they know it or not. Chaplains, religious education in schools, freedom of speech for Christians to proclaim the Gospel, freedom to employ those who share our faith – changes to these things are unlikely to make a difference to my personal faith – I’ve already heard and accepted the Gospel, praise God!

    But for someone who hasn’t yet heard, what a difference these changes could make! I know, by God’s grace the Gospel bears fruit around the world in countries that don’t have these freedoms. But when we have the privilege and responsibility of living in a democracy, shouldn’t we use it as best we can to promote the Gospel?

  40. Hi Jereth, returning to the above…

    I take it that we really are at the end of Christendom. But that doesn’t mean we’re on the eve of a great wave of persecution in Australia. We’re talking about the removal of tax privileges and such. Persecution? Really? :) I just don’t see the Greens presenting an extreme threat to the church.

    But let’s grant that as an immediate result of this particular election the Greens will (1) change Australian society (2) for the worse. So what? :) The church’s job won’t have changed.

    And let’s grant that (3) the Greens really are out to get Christianity. So what? :) Yeah, it might get really nasty. But it might just as well go a bit Acts 8:1-4. The gospel is not always best advanced through the church’s freedoms. I’m okay with fighting for those freedoms but not at any cost — and this year, I think there are greater concerns.

    But again, I don’t think a loss of freedoms is on view in this election, just a loss of privileges (positions of special influence for Christianity). So let’s say that state-supported religious programs in schools are done away with. Where would that leave us? Actually, it was that way in SA for a long time. The fascinating thing is that South Australian schools actually invited churches to provide chaplains because they saw the difference Christians made, and as a result there have been real connections established between school communities and church communities — and real grassroots gospel work!

    Christendom has been the order of the day in the West for a very long time. But I happen to think that the church was doing pretty well up until Constantine, and all we’re talking about is the undoing of that. Eusebius might not be too happy about it, but I don’t see the problem.

    My point, really, is that the church is responsible for proclaiming Christ. The church is responsible for caring for believers (that’s the Galatians 6 thing). The government has other business. Our job in this election is to vote on things that the government is responsible for, not for things that the church is responsible for. Australia desperately needs spiritual renewal, but that can only come through the Body, not through legislation.

    It would appear that I am the Anabaptist to your magisterial reformation, or something — but that’s nothing to lose sleep over! :) The church has work to do! Let’s get on with it! :)

  41. Hi Rachel :)

    It’s that truth vs. justice thing again. What do we do in this election? I’m confident that there are matters of justice that can be better addressed depending on the outcome. But I’m confident that gospel proclamation will continue after this election regardless of the outcome.

  42. I think it’s a little simplistic to go down the ‘the gospel is the best for everyone’ line without taking justice with it. Our silence on justice undermines our gospel message.

    But everything you’re saying rings true for me, Rachel – my heart’s desire is for people to know Jesus too! And how can they believe if they don’t hear / are preached to, etc. So of course it makes sense that we make sure they can hear.

    However if we’re going to talk about pragmatics of the gospel going forward, compare the growth of Christianity in China and in Australia – perhaps we want to take a leaf out of their book? ;) Of course, I’m being deliberately provocative here but my point is that it would be foolish of us to think that the gospel grows here by our freedom of proclamation and grows in China by God’s grace. In China, it grows by proclamation too (albeit less public) and here people are only converted by God’s grace.

  43. Hi Arthur,

    Please don’t think I am in favour of a Constantinian theocracy or theonomy where Christianity is specially privileged by the Government. I am actually quite comfortable with a secular state where that is defined as the separation of religious and civil authority.

    I do not object to Muslim or Jewish private schools. I believe that they are entitled to exist and receive Government funding alongside Christian and Catholic schools. Neither to I object to religious classes taught by non-Christian religions. I’m sure you are aware that in Victoria, school RE classes are taught by the Ba’hai religion as well as by Christians. That is fine with me.

    What I am against is the agenda of the Greens which is irreligious at its heart and pluralistic in its outworking. They want a “tolerant” society where nobody is allowed to claim absolute truth, or criticise another worldview or lifestyle, or attempt to convert other people away from their worldview. Given their way, it will become an offence to openly preach one deity or moral code over and against another. Yes, I do not believe Australia will descend into absolute chaos if the Greens win 10 seats tomorrow, but at the same time I do not think you can underestimate the amount of influence that a party can have in the Senate with that many seats, especially if they are wielding the balance of power. One must also be mindful of the Labor Left which shares the same irreligious pluralistic ideology and has attacked the church numerous times in Victoria. Put those two groups together and you’ve got a very nasty mix.

    The kind of society we should be striving towards is one where there is freedom of choice, and along with that, the freedom to hold absolute views robustly, to robustly criticise other points of view, and to robustly attempt to persuade others of one’s own point of view. These are the healthiest circumstances for the Gospel.

    Of course, if we become subject to increasing persecution, the Gospel will still advance, but that is a foolish thing to look forward to. We should do everything in our power to avoid that, including voting against political entities that will progress things that way. If God brings persecution on the church that should be in spite of our efforts, not as a consequence of our efforts. Paul did not get a pat on the back for causing the Acts 8 persecution, even though God used this persecution for good.

    By the way, I do not agree with this “truth vs. justice” dichotomy that you are suggesting. I feel that this dichotomy is somewhat concocted. All political parties, yes even the Greens, believe that they are on the side of “truth” and “justice”. And there is both “truth” and “justice”, in differing measures, to be seen in the various policies of the various parties. “Justice” is more than just how we treat refugees — that is far too narrow a vision of justice. Justice also has to do with how the Government collects taxes, runs the economy, provides health care and education, builds infrastructure, etc. etc.

    Jereth

  44. Hi Arthur, hi Tamie,

    You might remember me from OT501 / Chapel Team / MDG (2009). Hope you guys are going well! Campaigning all night like Tony?! ;)

    Mmm, I read your earlier post on truth vs justice. It’s a tough choice isn’t it – and not just a choice of Truth or Justice but Which truth and justice for Whom?! The justice issue/s that fire up one Christian might be different from those that tear at the heart of another.

    Yep, I felt I was stepping right into that comment on China, Tamie – but it’s so true isn’t it?! Persecution truly refines the Church. You have to really love Jesus, really trust God to persevere in tough places like that. I’ve been to China 4 times, and on the most recent trip met some Christians who go share the Gospel in remote factories, where people are so keen to hear and respond. And God’s power to save seems so great there!

    But like you said, His grace here is the same saving grace.

    Blessings,
    Rachel

  45. A supplementary note:

    It is not accurate to view the current situation as one of Christian privilege and the Green’s preferred situation as one of equal playing field. Let’s take education funding as an example. The private school sector (of which Christian and Catholic schools are a part), if anything, receives less funding per student than the public school sector. Therefore, schools which teach Christianity are already at a comparative disadvantage to schools which teach “all religions are equivalent” / “keep your own religious views to yourself” / “have sex when you’re ready”.

    If the Greens (and I suspect Labor) are able to implement their funding policy, even less funding will go to private schools, making the discrepancy even worse. This places Christian families in an uphill battle to provide their children with the kind of Christian education that they desire, while atheist families simply need to send their kids to a public school totally free of charge. The Greens are not stupid — they are well aware that children born into Christian families and raised with effective Christian teaching are the next generation of evangelists and church leaders. (Meanwhile, unbelieving kids raised in the public system are the next generation of pluralistic atheists.) By scuttling Christian education they weaken the future church.

    What about RE classes. An important thing to note is that RE classes are not Government funded. They are run entirely on volunteer effort — Christians (and Ba’hais) giving up time in which they could otherwise be earning money. Meanwhile, atheists do not need to lift a finger to have non-religious pluralism taught in schools — that already happens across the entire public school system in every single history, science and english class. Things are already heavily stacked against Christians as they are.

    Jereth

  46. Hi Rachel – yep I remember you and it’s been lovely have your contributions here. I’ve really appreciated your thoughtfulness. :)

  47. Ditto Tamie — good to see you Rachel! :)

    Jereth, just a couple of last things.

    We should do everything in our power to avoid persecution

    It is beside the point whether or not we are persecuted — that’s what I’m getting at. :) Our main game, irrespective of circumstances, is to keep telling of Jesus, to keep being his body. And when we are persecuted, we are to trust in God and keep on with the main game (Acts 4:23ff, 5:41, etc). The advance of the gospel is ultimately not dependent on the protection of the church. That’s not to say that we should seek denigration, just to reiterate that it’s a profound mistake to allow self-protection to become our driving motivation in anything.

    The truth-justice dichotomy being false… Well, yep, that was the point. :)

    By way of wrapping up this batch of blogging/commenting, and to perhaps add a little more more precision to my broad-brush efforts, Byron Smith’s perspective expresses pretty comprehensively where I’m coming from…

  48. Hi Arthur,

    I thought this was all over :-)

    I agree with you that the Kingdom will do fine regardless of whether Christians are being persecuted. That’s what I said above: “Of course, if we become subject to increasing persecution, the Gospel will still advance”. My point is that it is very foolish to invite persecution by casting a vote for our enemies. And I never said that self protection should be our driving motive. This is not about self protection; it is about preserving freedom to preach the Gospel, which is not in the church’s interests so much as the interests of those (unsaved) who need to hear it.

    Have a read of 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Our prayer should be for civic peace, so that we can make the saving truth known to others. Similarly, a prayer for preservation from persecution is a not an ungodly prayer (Psalm 31:15).

    [While we are in the Psalms, can I suggest to you in a spirit of brotherly counsel that many Christians like myself feel like Psalm 41:9 and Psalm 88:18 when we become aware that there are Christians voting for the Greens]

    I appreciate you taking the time and care to justify why you feel that you can vote Green in good conscience. I just do not feel that you have done so with sound Scripture and good reasoning. The Scripture that you did use (Gal 6:10) seems in fact to go against your case, as I have outlined above.

    Thank you for pointing out Byron Smith’s article. I agree with him and with you that being a Christian commits me neither to the left nor the right of politics. I do not have a strong objection to a Christian voting for the Labor party. (I said this on Bill Muehlenberg’s blog and got smashed for it!) I probably agree with you that the Left of politics does a little better than the Right at caring for some of the most under-privileged in society (so long as they have made it out of the womb). I have a lot of time for the DLP (which appears to have won a Victorian seat in the senate), a party which though socially conservative and Christian friendly, espouses economic views that will be closer to the ALP and Greens than Liberal.

    It is just that, at this time and place in history, the Left has become dominated by militant atheists who hate Christianity with its exclusive claims about faith and morality, and who are advancing a pro-homosexual social programme that the Bible regards as particularly diabolical (eg. Romans 1). The Right is not lacking in anti-Christian elements, but the difference is stark. I am sure that even folk like you and Byron can see this. Where we disagree is that you appear to be able to turn a blind eye to the evils of the Greens because you are passionate about a couple things they stand for, whereas I cannot.

    I wonder, if Australia ends up in 10 years with gay marriage and all that entails, if you will look back on your 2010 vote with any regrets :-)

    Jereth

  49. Re: Romans 1 – it really is a tragedy for Christianity, and the world, that the early Church elevated Paul’s stuff to the same place in the Bible as Jesus’.

    And as a lefty, I take exception to your claim that we “hate Christianity”. We just don’t think it should be enforced on people by Government.

  50. I reckon Paul gets too much of a bad rap, Jeremy — Jesus is the one who started talking about eternal fire and outer darkness! :| And some of Paul’s stuff is pretty beautiful.

    Paul got the ‘Christian’ label because the first Christians recognised him as a trustworthy part of the Jesus movement. Some of his writings in the New Testament are earlier than the Gospels themselves.

    Maybe both Jesus and Paul were schizophrenic, but Christians have thought it all hangs together pretty well somehow…

  51. Re Romans 1: I don’t think Paul is suggesting that homosexuality is particularly diabolical but rather an example of how the insidious addictiveness of all sin effects our thinking – Romans 1 charts a progression of being given over to the sinful nature from the point of temptation to not being able to tell what’s natural and what isn’t.

    I think sexual ethics are just a really easy place for Paul to make this point. I’m not saying homosexuality is not a sin – but it’s not chief amongst the sins – in fact, in this progression, Paul seems to list a bunch of sins we’d consider to be pretty minor as the final act in the progression.

    “28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

  52. Nathan, I respectfully disagree.

    A careful reading of Romans 1 indicates that homosexual activity, the exchanging of normal (hetero)sexual activity for abnormal, is the ultimate counterpart of idolatry, the exchanging of the true God for false gods.

    The list of sins in verse 28 demonstrates that rejecting God leads to a host of other sins, but Paul does not draw the same kind of verbal parallel with idolatry that he did with homosexuality.

    I was convinced of this understanding by an ordained minister friend some time ago, in a conversation about the Anglican church. It is interesting (and not coincidental) that of all sins, this is THE sin which has split apart the worldwide church.

    Here is what I have posted on another blog on the same topic:
    “On the one hand we must proclaim that ALL sin merits God’s wrath; in God’s eyes there are not some people who are more worthy of hell and some who are less worthy of hell — hell is the destination of all unforgiven sinners. Similarly, divine grace is able to cover all sins, no matter how great. Apart from the sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, no sin (provided it is repented of) can keep somebody out of eternal life.

    At the same time, it is foolish to say that all sins are equal. The differing degrees of punishments seen in the Mosaic law make it clear that some sins are weightier than others in God’s judgment.
    Sins are not equal in effect. Killing someone causes more harm than stealing a loaf of bread. Jesus’ remark “he who has been forgiven much, loves much; he who has been forgiven little, loves little” does not make sense if we regard all sins as carrying equal weight. Neither does Paul’s remark that “Christ Jesus came to forgive sinners, of whom I am the worst”.

    Sexual sin is clearly a more serious kind of sin because it is committed “against the body” (1 Cor 6) — that is, it is engaged in by the whole person, mind, spirit and body. No other sin — not even murder — requires such complete and utter self immersion. Even idolatry, which is the most serious kind of spiritual sin, typically engages the mind and spirit but not the body (though in the ancient world this was not the case; idol worship usually involved sex as well).

    Homosexuality is the immersion of the whole self (mind, spirit AND body) in a perverse act which completely rejects God’s purpose for the body. Our body’s sexual purpose is explained in Genesis — to become one flesh with a member of the opposite sex. Homosexuality completely overturns this purpose. Accordingly, Paul explains in Romans 1 that homosexuality is the ultimate corollary of rejecting God. Other kinds of sin follow as well (verses 29-31) but homosexuality is the pinnacle sin.

    Brothers and sisters, don’t be intimidated by people saying that we are just a bunch of sex-obsessed moralistic nutcases who should focus equally on moral issues other than gay marriage. The Bible by no means ignores other sins, and neither should we, but it does place emphasis on sexual sin as being the most destructive and weighty of all sins, and makes it clear that homosexuality is the most perverse kind of sexual sin. Who are we to contradict the Bible?”
    http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/08/14/romans-1and-the-death-of-a-nation/

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