This article first appeared in Australian Presbyterian
Kevin Rudd is attacking him. The Guardian is attacking him. The SMH and ABC are attacking him. Social media are attacking him. Comedians sneer and mock. Fellow politicians issue solemn warnings. None of this is new or surprising, but it is the subject of their attack, Morrison’s faith, which is surprising. Peter FitzSimons – never one to pass up the chance to have a go at biblical Christianity – used his Sun-Herald column to mock and wonder why in an increasingly ‘less religious’ country we have such a ‘religious’ PM. I thought we were supposed to be a multi-cultural tolerant society, where people can believe whatever they wish, and are free to express that belief? If Scott Morrison were a Muslim, Hindu, or Jew – would he be subject to the same mockery as he is because he is a Pentecostal? Would Kevin Rudd write about Islam in the way he writes about Pentecostalism? If he did, I suspect he would be prosecuted!
What did Morrison do? What did he say? The two most commented on remarks, that he made in a private gathering of his own church, were about laying on of hands, and an observation that social media, as well as being a force for good, can be used to do the devil’s work. As if to prove his point, in a social media discussion on who was the worse dictator, Napoleon or Hitler, I was told that worse than either was, wait for it … Scott Morrison. Who knew that we are being governed by Hitler’s grandchild!
On the other hand, there are those Christians who regard the Prime Minister as ‘our man’. A Christian in the highest seat of power. Isn’t that wonderful? I tend to be somewhat cynical about these things and have, in my two years here, been observing ScoMo’s behaviour and how he is treated. It is a fascinating and revealing study. Perhaps as an outsider, I can be forgiven for sharing a few observations on your Prime Minister (I would like to call him mine, but I am not a citizen and am not allowed to vote).
To compare Scott (I love the Australian habit of calling senior politicians by their first name although I was a bit surprised when I first heard a prayer in church for Scott, Gladys, and Anthony!) with Hitler is of course nonsense. But it is not much better to compare him to Trump. There is nothing Trumpian about Morrison. I find him to be quiet, dignified, balanced and truthful. There may be policies I disagree with, and aspects of how he deals with things – but overall, he is one of the more impressive politicians that I have seen. In my view, and that of my wife, we feel blessed to be in a country with such a leader – at least when we compare what we have here with what we have back home in Scotland, and what exists in both the UK and the USA.
I recall watching him giving a press conference on the edge of someone’s garden, and the man came out and asked him to get of the grass. Morrison apologised ‘sorry mate’ and moved. No fuss, no airs, and graces. I loved it.
But what about the crazy religious stuff? I haven’t come across any of it. For example, the latest attack was on what he said at his church conference and at a couple of other speeches, including his speech to the United Israel Appeal in Sydney where he argued for human dignity, morality, and individual responsibility.
“In short, to realise true community we must first appreciate each individual human being matters. You matter. You, individually. And in this context I would also argue we must protect against those forces that would undermine that in community, and I don’t just mean, as I’ve recently remarked, the social and moral corrosion caused by the misuse of social media, and the abuse that occurs there. But I would say it also includes the growing tendency to commodify human beings through identity politics.”
Those who espouse identity politics may regard this as blasphemy – but in a real democracy you can’t demand that only your religious/philosophical view be taken on board as public policy, whilst others have to be silent. Scott’s identity is as a Christian. Is that not acceptable? It appears that some identities are more privileged than others.
However, there are others who criticise him, not just for his political views (for some he is too right wing, for others too left), and not just because he expresses his Christian views. I have heard some Christians state that he does not express his Christian views clearly enough! Take for example his address to the United Israel dinner, it was critically observed this was not a Gospel address. Precisely. He was not there to preach the Gospel. But it was a somewhat brilliant demonstration of the effects of the Gospel and of common grace.
We don’t elect Scott Morrison to be the Christian prime minister. We expect him to be the Prime Minister for all Australians (and for those of us who are strangers in a strange land). He will get things wrong and make mistakes. He may even stumble and fall – which is all the more reason we should pray. Instead of sniping from the side-lines, we should be thankful that we appear to have a man of integrity, who is not ashamed of his faith, but also not exclusive of others. He is not the prime minister for Christians, but he is a prime minister who is a Christian. In this day and age, we should be thankful for that. We pray for Scott, not just as we would and should pray for any political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), but also as a brother. May the Lord keep him, guide him, and protect him from the bigots, the intolerant, and the mockers, ‘that we may live peaceful and godly lives in all holiness”.