23rd April 2019
Last year, 2018 has been described as a rough and tumble, even a tumultuous year. It certainly was a year that fractured the direction of the Uniting Church as a faithful Christian community. Others have said 2018 was a period when it was very difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood, or right from wrong. After years of debate and uncertainty, following the governments redefinition of the institution of marriage the Uniting Church yielded to the pressure of secular humanism by changing the sacred understanding of Christian marriage. This decision now leaves the church bitterly divided while other churches live in the shame of a broken integrity related to sexual abuse. The ‘Anglican “Southern Cross” rightly concluded, “We no longer find it easy to do life together, to negotiate differences, to chart a course into the future with confidence and hope.”
Some Christians appear to be locked into the familiar routine and rhythm of ‘church attending’ largely ignoring the real ‘culture wars’ of our time and the instability of government at the heart of both the nation and church. There is a prevailing attitude on the part of some in the church to regard Christianity as largely a private, personal matter rather than something that should draw faith values becoming a public or political matter. This way of thinking removes Christianity from the public square and encourages a ‘business as usual’ attitude. However, what we see as a ‘go with the flow’ national trend is a much larger crisis of global proportion. In fact it appears to be a crisis that challenges Democracy, Christianity and Western Civilisation.
This may sound extreme, but Christians are not free to ignore politics when it emerges in the church or in society. We cannot be reliable stewards of the faith heritage entrusted to us by retreating into a Christianity that is only private and personal. We are not free to ignore politics and to merge with a secular world in a way that abandons public Christianity even if we want to.
Paul exhorts us to pray for rulers so “we may live peaceful and godly lives.” (1Tim2). It has been pointed out that ‘godly’ here is the same word used for public religion. It is a prayer for freedom to publicly live out our faith. The idea here is that we pray so that “all people might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” It is linked with a public proclamation.
Today it appears that there is a crisis in Western Democracy and that it is combined with a crisis in Western Christianity as it faces increasing pressure from a growing secularism. There are those who claim that democracy itself is broken and that to be Christian is no longer a virtue. We are surrounded by so many ideologies that to claim public freedom of speech or to propagate Christianity is now offensive. It appears that we now live not only in a fractured world but also a church with different beliefs, customs and cultures. If we cannot agree on common faith values or principles to govern our life together then the majority will rule. In other words, pragmatism now triumphs over faith principles and in this climate it is easy to feel disoriented and confused
What then is a Christian response to this sort of crisis environment?
Rev Michael Kellahan says, “In times when hatred and tribalism are so rife, the Christian has to flow with grace upon grace.” He also provides Christians with a number of sound pointers.
(1) The Scriptures command us to pray for rulers. Pray and pray more for those in positions of leadership.
(2) Go back to the Scriptures,---they are powerful, sufficient and they are a saving word that a confused world needs to hear. We need to be equipped to think and apply the great truths of the gospel in a fast-changing world.
(3) Love all because God has first loved us—even when we feel excluded from the public square or church.
(4) Politics is not the unique calling of the Canberra lobbyist or Christian politician. We need to think and speak in Christian ways. There needs to be at least one person in every church who makes connection with the local politician.
(5) The local M.P. or councillor is your representative, so pray for her/him and ask for a meeting. Get to know issues in your community and take part.
(6) Speak a better story. We need to know the Christian story better and see how it speaks to the brokenness of this world. Listen empathetically to those seeking a secular salvation—We need a compelling story of where these hopes can be satisfied.
(7) Critique the false gospel of this ‘sexular age’. More beyond ‘respectful listening’ to confident and the humble speaking of God’s word.
(8) Read more history. Reject the online, goldfish culture. God’s people have responded to crumbling uncertainties many times in the past. God is at work even in the darkest days.
Kellahan concludes that today we live in exciting times with the vestiges of nominal Christianity disappearing. “Perhaps these will be times God uses to bring revival to his church. Perhaps they signal darker days. Time will tell. But in these troubled and confusing times we have a hope far more solid to cling to than Western civilisation and democracy.”
Christians and minor Political Parties 2019
Geoffrey Robinson of Deakin University says “Christians in Australia have attempted to mobilise religion in a similar way to the USA but have not been able to gain a foot hold in our main stream political culture.---Religion made ‘truth claims’—a moral law that homosexuality is wrong.— we reflect on our conduct and thoughts and try to live according to a moral code.-This draws on appealing to notions of self-governance but it has limited political potential….”
(“Why the Australian Christian right has weak political appeal,” is one of four papers by Geoffrey Robinson April 12 2018 which can be found on Google)
The response of the religious right
Lyle Sheldon, formerly of Family First, a Christian party active during the national plebiscite on marriage has responded by pursuing new truths such as the natural right of economic liberalism of Cory Bernardi’s The Australian Conservatives.
(1) The Australian Christian Lobby
In 2001 the obscure Australian Christian Coalition re-badged itself as the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’. In 2002 former A.O.G. pastor Andrew Evans established Family First and was elected to the South Australian Upper House followed by Victoria and N.S.W. (Later led by Lyle Sheldon) In 2018 it was absorbed into The Australian Christian Lobby.
Today the Australian Christian Lobby is a high profile, grass roots movement of over 135,0000 supporters seeking to bring a Christian influence to Australian politics. They are strictly non-partisan and do not receive Government funding. They want to see Christian values and ethics influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate as a society. A.C.L. is currently led by Martyn Iles—Pr@acl.org.au
(2) The Australian Conservatives
Founded by Cory Bernardi in 2017. Bernardi has been a Senator for South Australia since May 2006. While this is not a Christian party it is for those who believe that conservative principles are the better way for the nation. The norms of the Judeo-Christian tradition are the foundation for Western culture. The Victorian Senate candidate is Kevin Bailey.
(3) The Christian Democratic Party C.D.P.
This party has been founded by caring Australians and based on Christian values and ethics. It is socially conservative and founded by a group of concerned Christian ministers in N.S.W. They were established in 1977 under CALL to AUSTRALIA. They had Rev Fred Nile run as a Upper House candidate and have been primarily active in N.S.W.
In this Federal election Rev Bob Payne will be a candidate as a Victorian Senator. Bob built the first resident funded Retirement Village in Frankston in 1972 that is now called the Village Baxter. Contact 0499 700 777.
(4) Australian Christians
This is a party formed in 2011 that promotes and protects the values that create a better Australia for all no matter what their faith and belief. Values are based on our Judeo- Christian and Biblical heritage. Australian Christians are all committed Christians upholding family values and seeking to represent Christians who go to church a least once a month. They have invited the former DLP and Family First members to join them under one banner. This party has been Federally active in W.A., Vic, and Tas.
National Director Ray Morgan, Melbourne Rep. Maria Bengtsson.
Rev E.A.Curnow April 2019