This article was first published here in Australian Presbyterian
What does the Australian Election mean for the Church in Australia?
Anthony Albanese has been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Australia. Is this a significant event? Some secular commentators have described it in almost ecstatic terms – ‘This is Australia changed forever!’ Others in apocalyptic, “The end is nigh, buy your candles now!” Many people just couldn’t care less – in the words of The Who – ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ (from their song ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’). But what about the Church? How should Christians respond? What does this election mean for us?
Many Christians just seem to reflect the responses of the culture. One Christian leader joyously wrote “I feel like I’ve held my breath for nine years, and just let it out in a sigh of relief”. The responses to that were revealing. ‘I’m crying with joy”, “Now we have a chance”. On the other hand there were those who were in despair, fear and anger. The one group acts as though the Second Coming has happened, the other as though it is the Apocalypse!
The trouble with this is that many Christians seem to have fallen into the trap of identifying the Gospel with their politics. Whilst others are just cynical or confused. Tim Keller has some wise words on this subject for us all.
“To say that Christianity critiques all political ideologies and parties does not mean they are morally equivalent (i.e., equally good or bad). At the same time, if Christianity does critique all at some level– Christians must not become captured by any.”
A much needed and more biblical perspective came from the Sydney Anglican minister Justin Moffatt:
“One of the things I like about the prayers in the Anglican Prayer Book is that we always pray for the government of the day, and we pray the same thing no matter who governs. It moves effortlessly from one to the next, as though the problem of the world isn’t government, and the hope of the world were found elsewhere.”
Scott Morrison was not the Saviour, nor Satan. Anthony Albanese is not our Saviour nor Satan.
We should be thankful that there has been a peaceful election and transition of power. That should not be taken for granted. We should also be thankful for the number of Christians who were elected and for the fact that ‘Albo’ appears to be a decent and honourable man. I know that appearances can be deceptive, and only time will tell, but nonetheless Christians should give him the benefit of the doubt – and pray that he would receive all the wisdom and strength he will need.
However, I would suggest that whilst this is not the apocalypse there are reasons to be concerned about the trajectory that Australia seems to be on – one which has great implications for the Gospel. The reason that the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC and most liberal commentators are so joyful about the result is because they regard it as a victory for the ‘progressives. They are right. The Premier of Canada certainly thinks so – Justin Trudeau
“Congratulations, @AlboMP, on being elected Prime Minister of Australia. Our countries are close friends – and I’m looking forward to building on that with you, moving forward with progressive ideas, tackling climate change, and delivering results for people in both our countries.”
Is Australia about to join Canada, New Zealand and Scotland to see who can get to the bottom of the progressive pit first?
I pray that what I have witnessed happen in my beloved Scotland, will not happen in my beloved Australia.
Lessons from Scotland.
Impact on the political system – Despite the headlines there has not been a massive swing towards Labor. Indeed, their primary vote actually fell. They will form the government with a primary vote of less than 33% – the lowest since 1910. In other words, less than 1 in 3 Australians voted for Albanese to be our prime minister. There is a possibility that with the preferential voting system the progressive ideology may be in power until it ruins the country.
In Scotland after the 2014 referendum, the SNP together with the help of the Greens, managed to gain control of a parliament which had been designed to stop any one party getting control. And yet Scotland has become as much a one party, or perhaps better to say – a one ideology – State as it is possible to be in a democracy.
In Scotland the civic inner-city elites became all powerful. The Twittering classes all went Woke. Woke ideology now controls academia, the media, the corporations, the law, politics and even much of the church. It is a self-perpetuating system. Go outside it and your career is effectively over.
One reason that the SNP managed to get and retain such control is the weakness of the opposition – most of whom also came from the same civic elites. When they lost an election, they were told, and believed, that it was because they were not progressive enough – and so they adopted the same woke ideology. Australian politics may go that route, or it may not. But the Liberals would do well to learn the lesson ‘go Woke, go broke’.
I see the same pattern in Australia. If the Liberals believe the SMH’s view that the extremist progressives (who they call ‘the moderates’) lost their seats because the Liberals were not progressive enough, then they will act accordingly and be condemned to opposition for a decade. I find it intriguing that the media largely blame Katherine Deves and climate change, for the defeat. But there is another narrative. In my area of North Sydney, the incumbent Liberal MP lost his seat, not because someone elsewhere was not progressive enough; but rather because he alienated much of his conservative core vote. As the ACL point out – almost every Liberal who crossed the floor to vote against religious freedom and Christian schools has lost their seat. Perhaps the ACL campaign was more effective than the progressive media are prepared to allow?
Impact on the poor– The inner-city elites are back in control. This election was the revenge of the progressive middle classes against the man from the Shire. The Teal ‘independents’ are the least diverse group in Australian politics. They reflect the values and interests of the wealthy. Australia is now catching up with the rest of the Anglophile world – where in general the rich support supposedly left-wing politics (which are now all about progressive social values, not economic justice) and the working class have moved to the right. The middle-class progressives are in control of everything, and although they talk a lot about the poor – they don’t act. In Scotland millionaires get free prescriptions and free school meals for their children. Middle class subsidies and bail outs are all the rage. Meanwhile the poor suffer because of a weakening education, health care, housing and economy. And above all they suffer because of the progressive undermining of marriage, parenthood and the family. Sexual progressivism is a progressive fundamental that trumps everything else. Ideology comes before people.
Impact on the climate – The big push from the ‘Independent’ (I put ‘independent in brackets because the ‘independents’ are nothing of the sort – they are in effect another political party, put up to attack the Liberals), was about ‘changing the climate’. They were talking about two issues.
Firstly, climate change. The Liberals lost votes both to those who think that the world is going to end unless we do something now, and those who think that man made climate change is a hoax. The reality is that there is nothing that our politicians do in Canberra will make 0.001% difference to the world’s climate. Even if we went the most extreme route and returned to the Stone Age, China and India would make up for it in a couple of weeks! Those who voted for the Greens and the Independents in the belief that it will prevent floods in Brisbane and bush fires in Western Australia, are going to be sorely disappointed. Meanwhile the wealthy who voted for ‘climate change’ change will continue to fly on their foreign holidays, live in their large, air-conditioned homes, and eat their imported food. Whilst the poor pay the price for increased energy costs and the virtue signalling of the Green middle classes. In Scotland, with all our abundant energy resources, fuel poverty is soaring, transport costs have multiplied; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Climate change policy has been one of the most effective tax redistribution systems – from the working class to the wealthy.
The other climate that is supposedly going to be changed is the political climate in Canberra. Again, those who have faith this will happen are going to be disappointed. The problem is the human heart. Corruption, power abuse and political opportunism will continue whoever is in power. The notion that having more women will automatically make it better is an ideological, sexist, view with no basis in reality. The Mean Girls are as vicious as the Bad Boys!
Impact on the economy – The trouble with having a government run by political ideologues who don’t know how to make things, run things or pay for things, is that they are economically inept. Increasingly politics is dominated by people who have only ever known politics as a career. In Scotland our economy is in trouble, our transport system is a mess and a majority of the population now rely on government largesse, patronage and subsidy. It is not sustainable. And it is the poor who suffer the most.
Impact on education – The schooling system in Scotland has moved from being about education – teaching children how to think – to social engineering and political indoctrination – teaching children what to think. In Australia we already have progressive doctrines being indoctrinated into our children. I suspect this will only increase.
Impact on the Culture – The SMH opined that Albanese could now end the culture wars which in their view had been imported from the US by Morrison and others. The irony and lack of self-awareness in this is spectacular. No one has done more to import American style culture wars than the progressive press. The SMH for example agreed wholeheartedly with the progressive Liberal Simon Birmingham who stated that the Coalition lost, at least partly, because of its opposition to SSM.
The trouble is that it is only a culture war when social conservatives do it. When the progressives do it then it is just true, necessary, right and pure! Abortion, SSM and giving children puberty blockers is self-evidently the right thing to do. Disagree and you are a far-right fascist fighting the culture wars! You must accept what the progressives say, or you are being divisive.
Meanwhile I have seen media being shared by these non-culture warriors exulting that ‘Gilead has been defeated’ (referring to the Handmaid Tale and Jenny Morrisons dress); the American comedian Stephen Colbert’s mocking of Scott Morrison; the Guardian accusing Peter Dutton of Trumpism; and numerous other mocking culture war memes. The progressive culture warriors are engaging in a victory parade, before they mop up the remaining opposition.
In Scotland we have found that the cultural dominance of the progressives (often fuelled from the US progressives) means that the government doesn’t even need to make laws. They just silence people through mockery.
Already I see this narrative playing out in Australian politics. Mark McGowan said about Peter Dutton ““He’s an extremist and I don’t think he fits with modern Australia at all. He doesn’t seem to listen and he’s extremely conservative. I actually don’t think he’s that smart. I don’t pick up that Peter Dutton is fit to be prime minister.” Expect the same pattern to occur to anyone who dares to question the progressive ideology – they will be accused of extremism, not fitting with modern Australia, and stupidity. The progressives think that they have won the culture wars – but that won’t stop them continuing to fight them.
I suspect that electing someone on the basis of who he is not, will not bode well for the future of Australian politics.
Impact on the Gospel – What is the impact on the Gospel? In Scotland we have seen it in several ways. Much of the Church has just become the spiritual wing of the progressives. The government makes sure that those who go that route get the subsidies and the prestige. Money and media follow compliance. If you don’t go along with this, then they seek to control you in two ways.
Firstly, ridicule and mockery. One of the astonishing things about the Australian election was the level of personal vitriol given to Scott Morrison. I have rarely witnessed anything like it. And much of it was directed at his Christian faith. It was blatant prejudice and discrimination. Wicked, hateful and evil. And sadly, some Christians to their shame went along with it. A typical example of this came from Christine Milne former leader of the Greens – “Australia is a secular society and our Parliamentary system is based on separation of church and state. We are not a theocracy, and, in spite of your best efforts @ScottMorrisonMPand your mentors like Brian Houston, never will be.” Milne lied. But to the progressives that doesn’t matter. Lying in the cause of progress is fine.
On the other hand, Morrison responded well (please note when you praise someone it is not an endorsement of all their politics!). His last public speech as PM was to his own church, Horizon.
I found it deeply moving and I loved the quote from Habakkuk 3:17
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
Secondly, they discriminate and exclude. If you don’t buy into their social agenda, you won’t get government grants. If you are a charity, you could lose your charitable status. Any school that does not accept their social agenda could be shut down.
Finally, if all else fails – they persecute. In Scotland you could be prosecuted for hate speech if you dare to challenge any of the progressive shibboleths. I was told over five years ago by government officials that I was likely to be prosecuted for saying that a man could not become a woman. Things have only got worse.
The progressive doctrine is a totalitarian and authoritarian creed, which brooks no opposition. It encompasses all areas of life – even telling the church what it can preach, who it can pray for and what it can do. At some point we will have to obey God rather than men. At that point we will discover just how exclusive and intolerant the advocates of inclusivity and tolerance are.
This is not the end. It is not inevitable that the Albanese government will go the route of Scotland. Perhaps he will be a genuine social democrat who does not buy into the cultural Marxism of the progressive ideology? It is possible to be socialist and socially conservative. Perhaps there will be an effective socially conservative opposition who will be ready to pick up the pieces if things go pear-shaped? But even in the worst-case scenario – the Gospel must still be proclaimed, and the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church of Christ.
How must Christians respond? We need to be loving, prophetic and faithful. Some argue that we should get more involved in politics and go for political compromise. Others that we get more involved and go for control. My view is that whilst it is right for us to be involved with politics we should never compromise, and we should never seek to control. We are prophets not politicians.
Whilst I was reflecting on all of this, my heart was heavy. I could see the trajectory – and I was pleading with the Lord that I was wrong, that he would change things, that he would bless, challenge and guide Albanese and all elected politicians.. I went into a small church in the midst of one of the poorest housing estates in Scotland. And my heart was lifted as I listened to the Gospel being preached and the impact it was having on people’s lives.
Politics has no power to change the lives of the needy in a deep heartfelt way. But the Gospel does. That small gathering in a refitted shop in a rundown housing estate was a million miles from the politicians in Canberra, but it was not a million miles from the heart of God. That should be our response to current political events in Australia.
The ASK Project