I received an email with suggestions from Scott Morrison’s former pastor to all Australian Christians. I don’t know their name and it doesn’t matter, because the suggestions were generally good, but left some very important parts out.
I first started speaking and writing on politics primarily for this crowd because it’s my crowd. I’m one of those “happy clapper” Christians that actually talks to and hears from God and goes to church most Sundays – so I can speak with some insight into this crowd. I was at least partially provoked into this field by the likes of self-described agnostics such as Andrew Bolt and Mark Latham who frequently lament the apparent lack of interest and engagement in important public discussions by the Church in general. This year I also founded the annual Church And State Summit, whose mission it is to inform and involve more Christians from all backgrounds in the practical opportunities to love 25 million neighbours at once through political engagement.
One of the biggest problems the modern Church faces is apathy. Many Christians don’t go to church every week, many see tithing as an option. To be honest, there’s far too many Christians who wouldn’t even open their Bible or actually talk with God in an average week. It’s a symptom of the comfort we’ve had in the West for centuries. At Federation, fully 90% of Australians would have been at least sympathetically Christian. It’s no secret that’s waned in recent generations, but the point is we’ve been culturally Christian from our foundation until very recent times, and so we’ve never really valued that which we haven’t had to pay for ourselves.
We’ve gotten lazy.
But it never used to be this way. Times used to be a lot tougher. Before the modern welfare state mid last century and enormous taxation levels, it was churches that were the centres for the homeless and the hungry and took responsibility for abandoned wives, widows and the fatherless. It was churches that built hospitals and orphanages and schools and universities.
And then the politicians recognised that they could win elections with pork-barrelling instead of policies, and weaned us off our social responsibility, Christian charity, and told us they would be the dispensers of welfare if we just paid more taxes for more government services and voted for them.
This isn’t an economic opinion, but an observation that for a long time now the government has been encouraging us to just let them handle it, but it isn’t their primary purpose. Loving your neighbour is everyone’s business, and for some unknown reason we’ve forgotten that and handed the reigns of our lives to big government.
Including social policy.
When 90% of Aussies were at least affectionately Christian in culture, it was a lot easier to assume righteous and just government from our Parliament. The preamble to the legislation enacting our Constitution was never meant to acknowledge our nation’s humble reliance on the blessings of Almighty God, and yet it does. Why? Because there was such popular demand from the people that God be acknowledged somewhere in our Constitution it was politically pragmatic to do what it took to make the referendum successful. Smart.
That’s how democracy works. Give the people what they want. Represent them, and they will vote for you. Fail to represent them, and they will resist you.
But today’s Church has forgotten that we’re a part of this inclusive, pluralistic, liberal democracy too. Some Christians even repeat the radical secularist’s dogma that separation of Church and State is intended to exclude religious conviction from politics. The reality is, it is intended to protect the Church from the government – and certainly not the other way around.
To my great dismay, I’ve witnessed too many Christians rationalise their disinterest in politics with the fact that they pray for the nation, and that is all. Suggestions from Christian leaders to pray for politicians can be frequently misinterpreted to mean we only have to pray for politicians: tick that off your list of religious duties and you can go back to contemplating your navel.
The list of suggestions from our new PM’s former pastor was just such an easily misinterpreted epistle, three points especially so:
- Attempt to understand the pressures of the office, rather than add pressure on him from your office.
- Intercede for God’s agenda to operate through him, rather than push your agenda to him.
- Use you social media influence to build up, rather than “grandstand” or point scoring to your mates.
Here’s the thing. We don’t elect pastors. We elect representatives, politicians whose job it is to represent us with their policies. Pressure, agendas, and influence is exactly what we should be giving them (as well as prayers). You might see them as negative, but they’re not when used wisely. An important point is that if we don’t, people with godless pressure, agendas and influence always are using them, and will prevail in the vacuum we leave by our silence.
In addition to prayerful intercession for them, in a modern democracy like ours, every candidate and incumbent must be pressured to continue to represent their constituents or they will drift to court the votes of fringe agendas, simply assuming they have our votes. Christians are just as valid a constituency as radical trade unionists and environmental extremists – who, judging by their actions, seem to care more than us at each election!
As people who submit our wills to and agree with the Author of Justice, Love and Peace – whose agenda is better to “push” on our elected representatives than ours? If there’s something wrong with your agenda, correct it! Again, if we don’t, those who prefer the black hand of relativism to objective morality will push their humanist agendas on the Prime Minister.
Don’t swallow the myth that the only alternative to building someone up with your social media platforms is “grandstanding or point scoring”. Social commentary is a pulpit from which to let your light shine brightly and to flavour the conversation like the useful salt Jesus instructed us to be. Get that? Instruction, not suggestion. Pray and engage.
Continuing in His example, Jesus was ruthlessly critical of those social leaders in His day who were hypocrites, who added burdens to the oppressed, who sought power for its own sake instead of serving the downtrodden. Matthew 7 teaches us how to judge if we’re prepared to be judged by the same standard. In John 7 Jesus instructed His followers to judge with righteous judgment, looking beneath the surface. Jesus absolutely was engaged in social commentary and activism, and taught us to be too. There are multiple exhortations in Scripture to “rebuke the oppressor” and “open your mouth for those appointed to die”. That isn’t “point scoring to your mates”. It’s the most fundamental outworking of a Christlike love for others.
Scott Morrison’s faith doesn’t exempt him from the accountability or responsibility of his office to represent us. Julia Gillard’s atheism didn’t exempt her from our Scriptural obligation to pray for her as our leader.
More than our prayers and regardless of their religion (or lack thereof), every Prime Minister, Premier and local member of state or federal Parliament needs Bible-believing Christians who will also require of them the God-kind of justice, truth and peace that will prosper our nation and our neighbours.
Without the voice of Christians as the conscience of the state when the Commonwealth of Australia was forged at Federation, there would be no acknowledgement of God. But there was, and there is, and so there should be; as should we continue to pray for and to pressure our Prime Minister to represent us too.
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