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Letter from Australia 83 – Am I Right Wing?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday I had the great joy of preaching Christ in our church .  It was lovely to see a full church – almost everything was back to normal.  The children were in church, we had coffee and name tags.  The one thing we were not allowed to do was sing – which was difficult.  I’m not sure what the ‘science’ is that allows us to speak our confession together, but we can’t sing – especially in a State which has had no community transmission of Covid for over 40 days.

However, we have very little to complain about in Australia.  We can’t travel internationally but other than that life is normal.   When I phone home, I feel the pain and frustration of those who are still in lockdown.  I listened to Nicola Sturgeon’s non plans for lifting lockdown and found them so depressing.  What genius in the Scottish government decided that the churches could meet again – the day after Easter!   Does anyone really think there is any scientific reason for not opening 24 hours earlier?   I thought this graphic stressed the point.

J’Accuse

I was intrigued by a strange personal accusation I have heard recently.  It’s one that has occurred on social media and in other forms of gossip.   The accusation?  That I am right wing!

Now some would regard that as a badge of honour – but for me it is a dangerous accusation that can do a great deal of harm and is also revealing about our society  thinks and how the Church has become infected by it.  It’s an example of how language changes so much that it becomes meaningless.

From Communist to Socialist

When I was 14, I wanted to be a communist.  I read The Communist Manifesto, I rejoiced at the Vietnamese winning the war.   But even at that age I could see how evil communism was (despite teachers, media and others having Lenin, Marx, Che and Mao as some kind of heroes!).  When I was 17, I joined the Labour party and became the publicity secretary at the University of Edinburgh.  I joined CND and campaigned for various causes –    In 1979 I remember weeping when Margaret Thatcher was elected because I had actually read her manifesto – I knew what she was going to do.  But I watched with horror as the Labour party shifted to the extreme Left and so I became a founding member of the Social Democratic Party.

From SDP to SNP

When I became a minister in 1986, I was no longer involved in party politics, although I retained an interest.  I was disgusted to see Labour under Tony Blair (son of Thatcher) then lurch to the Right and support policies that to me undermined the very basis of the Labour movement.  I felt that the whole of the UK was becoming even more London centric and became convinced that Scottish independence was the way forward.  I admired the SNP for standing up to the EU (how times have changed!) and there were leaders like Gordon Wilson and Jim Sillars.

I would have described myself as left of centre when the terms left and right had some actual meaning.  I remember when I stood to become senior president of the Edinburgh University Students Association, I was considered the favourite to win until the Student newspaper did a hatchet job on me and described me as an extreme Marxist economically and an extreme Fascist morally.    They hated my Christianity and did their utmost to prevent me standing (whilst I was not ashamed of my Christianity it was not part of my political platform as I did not, and do not, believe in mixing religion and party politics).  Ironically if the Student newspaper had not done that, I probably would have gone on to a full-time career in politics and not become a minister.  I dodged a bullet.  The Lord works in mysterious ways!

A New Politics?

However even then there were hints that the elites were adopting a new philosophy and rewriting politics to ensure that they remained in control.  Left and right became meaningless.  Where being left wing once was about economic justice for the poor and the desire to create a fairer more equal society – within a couple of decades we moved to a situation where billionaires could call themselves socialists and working-class people who held to traditional values were described as fascists.  This is because of progressivem (although I dislike the term ‘progressive’ because in reality we are regressing to a Greco/Roman/Pagan world where the rich get richer and the poor poorer).  Everything became about sex and identity politics; and the new kid on the block, ‘saving the planet’ – which has become another way of penalising the poor and making the rich richer.  Owning land on which windmills could be built meant the rich got more government subsidies, paid for by the poor.   I don’t think my political position has changed much – but the society around me has changed enormously for the worst.

Red Robbo

My nickname was ‘Red Robbo’, so it was a bit of a shock the first time I was called ‘Right Wing’ – it was when Gordon Wilson and I produced a paper on Same Sex Marriage asking the Scottish Government to give us a referendum on it.  All Hell broke loose – it may have been a co-incidence but a week later was when I ended up in hospital.

Since then, I have got used to be being called Right wing by some militant atheists and secularists and young people who have been indoctrinated in the new politics and struggle to think for themselves.   Apparently being opposed to SSM, thinking that the child in the womb has a right to live, and thinking that being a woman does have something to do with biology, makes you akin to Hitler!

The Church Follows the World

But what has depressed me more is how these terms have come into use in the church.  When a gay magazine ran a front-page article on the occasion of my becoming the Moderator of the Free Church it was amusing to see the headline; “Free Church takes lurch to Right with appointment of homophobic moderator!”   In Free Church terms I was probably on the loony Left!  (To be fair to the editor he allowed me the right of reply and the resultant article explaining the Biblical position became one of their most read ever – the Lord moves in mysterious ways!).

Sadly, far too many have bought into the language of the world when it comes to discussing these things – and the worlds politics have crept into the Church.  I was once told by an American pastor that I would be banned because people couldn’t work out if I was a socialist or a Satanist – and which one was worse!    But in other areas the term ‘right wing’ is now being used as an insult along the lines of ‘you must be a Trump supporting, far right etc).

I have been trying to work out why people are gossiping (and gossip is what it is  – it’s not something that is said to my face but rather behind my back) and using this term as an insult – in some instances even trying to get me ‘cancelled’.  (I find it a little comforting that occasionally I have been ‘cancelled’ for being both ‘too right wing’ and ‘too left wing!).   And the nearest I can get is that if you dare to challenge the progressive status quo – if you dare to challenge the current elitist zeitgeist – that makes you an uncomfortable person for those who are seeking to join and influence that zeitgeist.  They genuinely believe that standing up for biblical standards in today’s society makes you an extremist and right wing (although I am not convinced they can define the terms – they have just become shorthand for ‘I don’t agree with you and I don’t like you).  Of course, standing up for progressive causes is fine – that just shows that you are one of the good guys.

Words are Cheap and Have Consequences.

There is a warning here for us in the Church.  We should not adopt the language or standard or politics of the world.  We should not gossip.  We must learn to engage with a prophetic voice to a post-Christian society.

There is also a warning in terms of the consequences of our use of language. If you go round telling enough working-class people that they are Far Right because they have socially conservative views and want to keep their jobs in traditional industries and quite like the idea of travelling to go on holiday – then some may turn round and say ‘ok, fair enough…if that’s what it means to be right wing…then I am.’  Ironically the illiberal ‘progressive’ left are the primary recruiters for the Far Right (who in my view are almost as much a danger as the Far Left).   The ‘champagne socialists of Kensington’ or the ‘latte sipping left-wingers  of Newtown’ , or the wine drinking ‘progressive’ clergy are not the champions of the poor.  They are the virtue signallers par excellence.  They fiddle while Rome burns.

As for me I cannot buy into any of these labels.  My basic views about economics, society, morality etc have not changed all that much.  But I find that now I am more radical in terms of today’s society than I was in my communist leaning days.  (e.g., Humza Yousaf is about to make some of my views illegal – I’m thinking of claiming refugee status here in Australia!).

Where are the politicians who will dare to challenge the current view of the elites?  Now I don’t particularly care for any of the political parties (there is little significant practical or ideological difference between the main ones) so I would vote for any individual who shows the ability to think for themselves, and is prepared to stand up for families, freedom, faith and the poor.  Anyone?

See you next week,

DavidPS.  Let me add a wee caveat here – reading The Spectator does not make you right wing, any more than reading the Guardian makes you left wing.  Being on Gab does not make you right wing, any more than being on Twitter makes you left wing. For what its worth I read the Guardian and the Spectator, and am on Twitter and Gab…..go figure!

Letter from Australia 82 – A Big Country and Spiritual Mourning

The Kitchen Table 27 – Religion and Politics

 

 

 

15 comments

  1. If you are anything right of the extreme left (including the reasonable left) you are going to be called right wing by some shrill voices the way things are now. But greater is He in you than he that is in the world David.

    You know this.

    Truth will prevail and love never fails.

    I’m not sure that all of Nicola Sturgeons plans for coming out of lockdown can be convincingly labelled “depressing” on the basis of the plan for churches meeting again the day after Easter. Methinks Sir might be using hyperbole there. I keep in mind the directive to be obedient to authorities in principle while at the same time our struggle being against authorities in this dark world.

    That being said I’m happy for you and for Australia with what you have shared about you being in a state that has had no community transmission for 40 days. Let’s hope for similar for Scotland.

  2. The UK media, who fire around these ‘left-right’ labels, do need a reality check. UK National Insurance Tax (‘NI Contributions’) never feature much in the newspaper dialogues. With a much lower starting threshold than normal UK Tax, and cessation at around the Higher Rate Tax threshold, we have invented one of the most punitive tax systems for the poor. Those best able to pay more, pay next to nothing, in comparison to regular working people.

    With Council Tax in the UK, we replaced the old Rates Bill (based on capital and amenity value of a property), with a one bill fits all tax. Part of the new cunning Tory Tax plan may involve leaving the lower rate main Tax threshold unchanged for three years. So with a little inflation coming, ordinary people get fleeced once again.

    And then there’s UK State Pensions. The UK plan is to extend the age ever upwards from 65-66, in small increments which younger people will take little account of. Why do we allow billions to exit our economy on foreign aid, sometimes gifted to corrupt dictatorships with space programmes, while some of our old people struggle to afford food or heating? To keep money circulating in our own economy might be one answer post-pandemic and post-Brexit.

    The Stamp Duty Holiday during the pandemic is another gift to banks, financiers, mortgage companies and estate agents. Why on earth would we want to drive property prices and housing poverty upwards? One of the best things for the UK poor, and middle income people, would be a decrease of the price of properties. The current system feeds a variety of fat cats while keeping millions in housing rental slavery bondage.

    The secular media have little time for bread and butter politics, which impacts the lives of ordinary citizens. Churches in the UK have started food banks for the poor, but why is there no clamour for reform of the economic system which has made food banks a necessity?

  3. I read about a helpful model a while ago that helped me make sense of my own views. It splits the traditional “left/right” into three axes:

    1. The first one is the economic axis, so it is the traditional one that describes if you are more socialist or free market capitalist in your views.

    2. The second axis deals with domestic policies and this is the one that peolle seem to become very passionate about at the present time. It deals with issues like abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, transgenders and so on.

    As we can already see, there is a tension there already: you’d probably consider yourself a socialist on axis one and a Christian conservative on axis two, Pastor, which is probably where some of the confusion and name-calling arises from the people trying to pigeonhole you and castigate you.

    Axis three relates to international affairs, so whether you are more pacifist or bellicose, where you stand on nuclear disarmament, military budgets, conscription, treatment of refugees, etc.

    Someone like Jean who posts quite regularly is very liberal on axis three but seems very liberal on axis 2.

    Hence, overall the theory is most peope trend one way on each group of issues: hence someone who is opposed to abortion is probably also opposed to euthanasia and someone who is anti-war might also be strongly in favour of good treatment of refugees – at least that is the theory!

    I hope you find that interesting/helpful.

  4. If I may add a little bit more…

    “If you go round telling enough working-class people that they are Far Right because they have socially conservative views and want to keep their jobs in traditional industries and quite like the idea of travelling to go on holiday – then some may turn round and say ‘ok, fair enough…if that’s what it means to be right wing…then I am.’ ”

    Yep, I think that is a very much the attitude an average working-class Aussie would adopt.

    “Ironically the illiberal ‘progressive’ left are the primary recruiters for the Far Right (who in my view are almost as much a danger as the Far Left). The ‘champagne socialists of Kensington’ or the ‘latte sipping left-wingers of Newtown’ , or the wine drinking ‘progressive’ clergy are not the champions of the poor. They are the virtue signallers par excellence. They fiddle while Rome burns.”

    Yes!!! Just like we have been discussing on that older post. They pretend to support the working class but it is a charade. They don’t talk to them, they don’t undrrstand them, they don’t empathise with them – they just pretend to show solidarity (virtue signalling) but look down on them when they “vote for the wrong way” and keep returning conservative governments. Austealia has never been a class- blund society like the UK and has a self-image of being highly egalitarian but I feel the classes are starting to drift further and further apart now, Pastor. (I don’t know how you’ve found that aspect of Australian life). I presume we are nowhere near the point of having the highly stratified society that has traditionally existed in the UK, though.

    Perhaps social media echo chambers are driving it, or US influence, but there does seem to be a growing inner-city/outer suburban divide. Demographic change might be another factor: once inner city suburbs like Fitzroy and Collingwood in Melbourne were consideted dumps but now they are the trendy inner-city areas, with housing prices to match, while working class people are forced further and further out of town. It isn’t so much the elites but the middle class (progressives) and the working class (conservatives) who are no longer talking to each other and have different cultures now.

    I’ve never been to the UK but I guess it is something that has always been there: I imagine/assume a working class person in Bethnal Green and a middle class person in, say, trendy North London or Saint Albans in Hertfordshire or in Buckinghamshire wouldn’t have had much in common in terms of lifestyle, politics or social attitudes, either in a more extreme way than us Aussies could even imagine at this stage.

  5. “Ironically the illiberal ‘progressive’ left are the primary recruiters for the Far Right”

    Sorry, I’m feeling a little dense Pastor. How does that work?

    Are you saying people will be sick of PC cancel culture and join Far Right as a reaction against it? For instance, will they be so worried about BLM’s and Antifa’s power that they’ll feel obliged to join white supremacists to combat them and “protect” their own ethnic group?

    Or do you mean

    “Because the Illiberal Left are authoritarian, they will make other authoritarian, extremist groups, on the Far Left AND the Far Right seem more palatable to ordinary folks when joining those kinds of groups would once have been unthinkable for most right-thinking citizens?”

    Or do you mean something else, meaning I’ve missed the point entirely? Thanks.

    1. Both of these – but also the point contained in the article. If you keep telling people they are Far Right maybe one day they will believe you.

      1. Yes, I think that is all very true. We are hearing more and more reports about the growth of far-right groups in Australia. Their activities – in the open – would have been undreamt of once.

        Is it any wonder though? Since the Keating years, White Australian culture has been attacked and suppressed with ever-increasing authoritarianism. Books have been banned, innocent, traditional jokes can no longer be told, relationships between men and women have been inverted, we live in fear every day in corporate workplaces of saying the wrong thing and being hauled before a diversity council for re-education or, worse still, lose our jobs. Even celebrities like Israel Folau and Margaret Court are not immune. Our culture has been besmirched and our history has been rewritten – and sometimes blatantly falsified in the case of the “black armband view and stolen generstions claims – by those with a leftist political agenda. Our ancestors have been slandered as they have bern accused of genocide, white privilege, etc, when in reality it was only a few who had real power or who participated in any atrocities against Aborigines, Chinese gold miners, etc. In reality, most of the white people who came here were convicys, poor, dispossessed Irish, impoverished British and msinland Europeans who immigrated under sponsored assistance schemes in search of a better life and, later on, refugees who had lost everything in WW2. Not much “white privilege” there but it is these poor ancestors of ours and the culture they established who are now slandered and attacked relentlessly by the left “on behalf of” their alleged victims. No wonder “white pride” slogans resonate amongst workers now as they finally have enough and rebel against the authoritarian liberal leftists who rule all aspects of the Establishment at this point in history.

        The Howard Givernment did nothing to address this. Abbott may have – he took some small initial steps to re-establish links with Britain, most notably by reinstating awards like knighthoods – but he didn’t survive long. ScoMo seems to be doing more with his Australia Day address. Hopefully he can reverse the trend begore an eruption of passions leass to a populist, Trump-style leader being voted in by the disenfranchised working class.

        The other thing is that everyone now knows who the liberal authoritarians, the SJWs, transgenders, gays, anti-whites, etc are. If there ever is a huge swing to the far right (or as is more likely, small targeted attacks, these people, by outing themselves in public or on social media, have painted huge targets on their backs.)

        Maybe it is the cycle of things: every decadent Weimar Republic must be followed by a Nazi Regime. 🙁 The authoritarian left of the Soviets must be countered by the authoritarian right of the Nazis. Maybe we are just seeing a mildrr variant of that pattern playing out now. If so, we must pray for more fearful times lie ahead as society “course-corrects” and the power of the authoritarian liberals is countered by the rise of an authoritarian reactionary far right.

  6. If the churches are allowed to open on Monday, and it’s a public holiday? Have the service on a Monday.
    I’m sure God isn’t so magically minded He’d be mortally offended by a necessary change. Leave Him to deal with the Government if He is offended at them.

    If outdoor services are already permitted, do one of those on Sunday, well spaced of course. English traditional-denomination “new fire” services have always started outside, and many were already held entirely out of doors even before the pandemic began.

    As to the misdirected financial gains for landowners? Twas ever so, and nothing would ever get done without them getting the usual hand grease. But it’s not a complete nothing for the poor – their repayment on the enforced investment is cleaner air in their lungs. Which, as an asthma sufferer, I’d willingly pay to achieve for myself and others.

    A lot of good points from James Hardy above: but he also misses an important “downstream” impact. We give aid to other countries, not out of the goodness of our stony little pagan hearts, but for the sounds benefits of making it more supportable for their people to stay there and develop their own economies, rather than migrating to ours. In the case of India, which I think is the one he was implying specifically, our payback is the current rush to get a trade agreement.

    Politics isn’t religion, and while we can advocate for Christ’s ethical way, we haven’t been able to impose it by force since around 1700. There’s a good reason He planted the Kingdom in people’s hearts rather than relying on a traditional human Great Power.

    1. The question is what ‘science’ tells us that its ok to open on Easter Monday but not the day before?

      Outdoor services are not permitted.

      I’m sure the poor – who can’t afford to heat their homes because they are paying taxes for the benefit of the rich will be grateful for your comment about the clean air…’let them eat cake’!

  7. Hi, David,
    When the Communist cause collapsed in France, support for the National Front went up by the same amount that the Communist vote fell and it seems pretty obvious that the shift had more to do with grievance than with ideaology. Similarly, it is at least arguable that if the management of British Leyland had worked with your nicknamesake, Derek (Red Robbo) Robinson, who was a Communist there might still be a car industry in the Midlands; the press at the time did not seem to be able to distinguish between Communists who were trying to build and Trotskyists who were trying to break down.
    The crucial choice for this generation is between parents who don’t approve yet love their children all the same and polititians who calculate that they must show approval for people and causes they would rather did not exist. Obviously there are exceptions to both categories but the approval of things always previously supposed to be wrong marks our day and love is under attack. However, Love never fails.
    Yours,
    John/.

  8. I am an evangelical/reformed Christian and would describe myself as a
    Social Democrat.

    This means I support policies like: Universal health care, public
    education, free university tuition, unemployment benefits, disability
    and aged pensions. And I also support increased taxes to pay for these.

    I do not follow “the social gospel”. No one gets to heaven by Social
    Democratic policies. The only way to heaven is through repentance and
    faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sin. Moreover, I do not see
    Social Democratic policies as attempting to build “Heaven on Earth”. I
    do, however, see these policies as making life on earth better. Not
    perfect, not a utopia, but just better.

    Social Democratic policies are not prescribed in the Bible. But neither
    are they proscribed.

    Minarchism (the opposite of social democracy) is not prescribed or
    proscribed in the Bible either.

    The best Bible passages to support Social Democracy are the gleaning
    passages in the OT (Leviticus 19.9-10 and Deuteronomy 24.19-22). In
    both these passages, Israel’s farmers were commanded to leave the sides
    of their fields unreaped so that the poor can get food. This was not
    charity. It was a command. And it was a redistribution of property –
    goods owned by the rich were transferred to the poor so that they may
    have enough to eat. If the Bible was against Social Democratic policies,
    such an action would not have been prescribed for God’s Old Covenant
    people.

    In Psalm 113.7-8 it says “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts
    the needy from the ash heap, 8 to make them sit with princes, with the
    princes of his people.”, which indicates that a raising out of poverty
    and an elevation to equity with others is a godly result.

    Another passage is Genesis 47.13-22 when God saved Egypt through Joseph.
    What occurred was essentially the pharaoh taking over private farms,
    which would be an ancient form of nationalisation. If the Bible was
    against Social Democratic policies, such an action would not have been
    prescribed.

    Taxation is not theft. The Bible never depicts it as such. Romans 13.6-7
    says that Christians should pay taxes. 1 Samuel 8.10-18 does warn that
    kings have the power to steal your property and family for their own
    selfish and warlike ends, but we’re not talking kings here, we’re
    talking government. And in Luke 3.11-13, John the Baptist tells tax
    collectors to not collect any more than they are required to, instead of
    telling them not to collect any, or to give up their job.

    Ancient Rome had a grain dole (the “Cura Annonae”). This was present in
    Rome during the first century. It was a law that provided free bread to
    the needy. None of the NT writers speak about it negatively. In fact they
    don’t mention it at all. This is important because the book of Romans,
    written to the Christians in Rome, did not require them to oppose it.

    Some social democratic social policies support abortion and
    homosexuality. I believe that an unborn child is a human being, and that
    homosexual sex is a sin. However I don’t think that making abortion illegal
    will result in less abortions, and I don’t think that making homosexual
    marriage legal will result in the destruction of the “traditional family”.
    There have been too many myths and rumours surrounding the “homosexual
    agenda” for many decades within the evangelical community.

    Much of modern evangelical Christianity has been infiltrated by
    pro-capitalist thinking over the years, to the point where “the
    Christian worldview” ends up denying things like welfare payments or
    public education or universal healthcare. This is ridiculous.

    The Bible’s overwhelming depiction of poor people is that they are not
    responsible for their poverty. While some passages warn against laziness
    or idleness, the vast majority of poor people are shown to be poor
    because of the actions of the rich. eg Proverbs 13.23, 14.21, 14.31,
    19.4, 21.13, 22.22, etc (just search for “poor” in both testaments and
    you’ll see the overwhelming message)

    Social Democrats are not Socialists. A Socialist wants the government to
    control all enterprises and capital. By contrast, a Social Democrat sees
    a greater part for government to play in society and the economy. They just
    see the government being involved more. Even Bernie Sanders isn’t trying
    to destroy capitalism. He’s just a Social Democrat.

    While historical examples of Socialism and Communism have persecuted
    religions, atheism and anti-religionism is not essential to their belief
    system. Modern day Socialists accept religious freedom, even if they do not
    agree with certain religious morals being accepted into wider society.
    Social Democrats, similarly, support religious freedom.

    It is very possible for individuals, households and even entire
    countries to become “better”, and to do so without the work of the Holy
    Spirit in regenerating them. Many people become better people without
    being saved. This is partly a good thing, as it shows God’s common
    grace. But they’re not getting to heaven without Christ. Let the
    government and society be the place where God enacts his common grace,
    and let the church and Christians be the ones who spread God’s saving
    grace. I’m saying this because too many Christians argue that the only
    way people’s lives can be changed for the better is through the Gospel.
    Of course the Gospel does change lives, and it also secures for those
    who have faith in Christ the assurance of eternal life, but there are
    plenty of things in our world that have improved people’s lives that
    aren’t gospel related.

  9. “Ironically the illiberal ‘progressive’ left are the primary recruiters for the Far Right”

    Sadly, this resonates with me, Pastor, even though I know it probably shouldn’t.

    To give just one example, I had compassion and empathy for refugees in detention, but because of the way so many Identity Politics and SJW types have jumped on that bandwagon with their virtue signalling and vested interests, I no longer feel anything about the issue except suspicion.

    If these terrible, bullying, hypocritical people are advocating for refugees, I start to think maybe the government is right to take a hardline against them, because I want nothing to do with the SJWs, since I’ve seen how hypocritical they are and what bullies they are on other issues. I automatically want to take the other side on all issues and fight against their perverse effect on Australian society.

    Of course, it is the refugees themselves who are the ones who suffer when “average” people like me abandon them and the SJWs use them as political footballs. 🙁

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