The Greens don’t have a prayer…

From a wise Editorial in the Australian…

lords-prayer-3NO book has had a greater impact on Western civilisation than the Bible. Believers or not, few would disagree. The Bible has shaped our language, art and institutions. Its Christian teachings have informed our development from exploration to enlightenment, through customs to laws, forging countries and cultures. So the practice of beginning deliberations in federal parliament with the Lord’s Prayer is not the imposition of a narrow religious code but rather a continuing thread of responsibility and respect for the burden of democratic decision-making.

The Greens move, by acting leader Richard Di Natale, to scrap the tradition is another demonstration of their disconnect from the mainstream. Senator Di Natale contends ditching the prayer will reinforce the separation of church and state when this separation is the very endowment of the traditions it reflects. He suggests it is not attuned to a pluralistic and multicultural society when that, too, has been bequeathed by these traditions. He even verballed curriculum reviewer Kevin Donnelly, suggesting his reference to the prayer hinted at a formal preoccupation with Christianity, when Dr Donnelly argued the need to teach about all great faiths.

To be sure, the prayer sparked debate when it was introduced at Federation. The then member for Kooyong, William Knox, moved the motion saying the prayer was “unsectarian in character” and could be accepted even by members of “the Hebrew faith”. The current member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg – Jewish, as it happens – agrees. Back in 1901, West Australian senator George Pearce argued that the principles of the prayer were worthy of senators “even if uttered by atheists” and would do no harm. He was right, and prescient.

Greens senators are free to restrict their spirituality to addressing “fellow Earthians” about Gaia. We think most Australians are comfortable with the Lord’s Prayer. Australia even bolstered the prayer’s global renown when in the 1970s Adelaide singing nun Sister Janet Mead sent it to the top of the pop charts. The Greens might be more comfortable heeding the words of the only transported convict elected to federal parliament; in 1901, William Groom declared the prayer “socialistic” and ascribed it to “the greatest social reformer that the world has ever known”. Amen.

33 thoughts on “The Greens don’t have a prayer…

  1. Most Christians don’t say the Lord’s Prayer anyway outside of the traditional churches.

    Bit of a wind up about nothing really.

    Are they still using the old one?

    “He even verballed curriculum reviewer Kevin Donnelly, ”

    Don’t get me started on Pyne and his minions.

  2. The ‘Godless Greens’: Pernicious myth or political reality?

    Marion Maddox

    Who’s afraid of the “Godless Greens”

    In August 2010, two weeks before the federal election that delivered the hung parliament, Australia’s most senior Catholic and an outspoken climate change sceptic, Cardinal George Pell, warned Catholic voters that the Australian Greens was “thoroughly anti-Christian” and “sweet camouflaged poison.” According to the 2010 annual report of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL):

    “Although ACL is non-party partisan, it is committed to exposing un-Christ like agendas and has found it necessary to criticise the Greens who have driven a dramatic up-surge in anti-Christian, anti-life and anti-family legislation in 2010.”
    In the same report, Managing Director Jim Wallace wrote:

    “The political environment shifted in 2010 with the rise of the Greens to unprecedented influence. The danger in the emergence of the Greens is that if the major parties pursue their dysfunctional and often aberrant policies in areas such as marriage, family, drugs, immigration, pornography and the economy, it threatens to pull the whole of politics into their agenda for social deconstruction. It is a shame that we do not have an environmental party with Christian values.”

    The 2011 NSW election campaign saw a similar pattern. Nine NSW Catholic bishops, led by Cardinal Pell (but not the bishops of Botany or Bathurst), signed a pastoral letter distributed in Catholic churches and through Catholic schools warning of “The Green Agenda,” which caused “grave concerns” in the areas of religious freedom, school funding, drug use, marriage, abortion and euthanasia. The Bishops’ statement was distributed particularly assiduously in NSW’s Northern Rivers region. Local newspaper, the Northern Star, reported a few days later that the letter “already appears to be having an impact on the election, with reports of Catholic Greens supporters saying they will change their votes over it,” while a volunteer announced her resignation from a Greens candidate’s campaign “because of the letter.”

    Like many churches, the Catholic church of St. Catherine Laboure in the parish of Gymea was hired by the Australian Electoral Commission (for $550) for use as a polling place. A Greens campaign volunteer, Colin Ryan, was told by Monsignor Brian Rayner that, unlike other party representatives, he could not hang posters or distribute party material on church property, but would have to stay on the footpath outside. Ryan explained in the parish newsletter that he had sought advice from the Electoral Commission, which had advised that he could remove placards from the church and school fence.

    ‘This action by me was taken because the Greens party is opposed to aid to Catholic Schools, promotes gay marriage, euthanasia, abortion, etc. The Greens are often seen as a party which protects the environment. This is commendable. However, it is this often hidden platform and policies of which Catholics are unaware.”
    Rayner said he would have taken a similar action with respect to a Sex Party candidate, had one stood in his electorate. An Electoral Commission spokesperson said that the dispute was “between the parties concerned.” The reasoning behind this is not especially clear, since Section 327 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 states that “a person must not hinder or interfere with the free exercise or performance, by any other person, of any political right or duty that is relevant to an election under the act,” with a penalty of $1000 fine or six months imprisonment or both.

    In August 2011, NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith told the Panel of Experts of the International Religious Liberty Association, meeting in Sydney, that the Australian Greens had “a strong atheistic and anti-religious tendency” and that it “would be fair to say that if the Greens had their way, people with any religious beliefs, particularly Christian ones, would not have any role or say in public life.” When I asked from the floor how that tallied with the many Christians who had taken their beliefs into public life as Greens MPs and candidates, he replied that he was aware of some who “claimed” to be Christian, but that they needed to consider the denunciations of their party by “bishops and archbishops.”

    Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Community Services Kevin Andrews wrote in Quadrant in 2011 that Green politics relied on “a new pagan belief system, concerned not with the relationship between humans and a creator, but based on a deification of the environment,” and that:

    “What is at stake in the Greens’ ‘revolution’ is the heart and soul of Western civilisation, built on the Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual – with obligations and responsibilities to others, but ultimately judged on his or her own conscience and actions – as the possessor of an inherent dignity and inalienable rights.”
    On 22 February 2012, Stephen O’Doherty, former Liberal Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly (1992-2002) and then CEO of Christian Schools Australia, told ABC radio that the Greens “seem to be very anti-religious.” In an online video interview with The Australian newspaper on Easter weekend 2012, Cardinal Pell reiterated that the Greens are “quite explicit about their opposition to Christianity.”

    The Australian Christian Lobby posted a media release on its website on 22 July 2012 under the headline “Labor win in Melbourne bodes well for removal of Greens at Federal poll,” in which ACL chief of staff Lyle Shelton worried that “mistakenly associating with” the Greens was “causing Labor to damage its brand with mainstream voters.” Despite repeatedly claiming on its website to be “non-party partisan,” the ACL enthused, “There is a real opportunity now for Labor and the Coalition to combine to see Mr Bandt removed from the Parliament.” The ACL continued this theme during the 2013 election campaign, issuing a media release on 14 August 2013:

    “ACL’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton welcomed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s announcement to preference Greens candidates last in the lower house and urged Labor to do likewise – particularly in the Senate.

    Labor has a choice to woo back the Christian constituency which helped elect Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007 or choose the Greens which have significantly damaged Labor’s primary vote and brand … Labor has many Senate candidates who are attractive to Christian voters but a preference deal with the Greens would be a turn-off.”
    ACL’s view that the Greens should be “removed from Parliament” was not unique to those opposing the party on theological grounds. The Australian declared on 9 September 2010 that “Greens leader Bob Brown … and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; … they are bad for the nation; and … should be destroyed at the ballot box.” The newspaper’s coverage amounted, according to political scientist Robert Manne, to “a kind of jihad against the Greens, a party supported by 1.5 million of the nation’s citizens” in a manner which “in itself, undermines any claim to fairness or to balance.”

    Godly Greens

    Characterisations of the Greens as “pagan,” “atheist” or “thoroughly anti-Christian” are difficult to reconcile either with the party’s history or with the range of people who have committed their time and other resources to its electoral success.

    The Australian Greens is a confederation of eight State- and territory-based political parties. The first Green party in Australia – indeed, the world – was the United Tasmania Group, formed in 1972, which evolved into the Tasmanian Greens. The first two Greens in the Senate, and the first Green elected to the House of Representatives, all identified as Christians. In August 2013, the Australian Greens’ federal representation was nine Senators and one Member of the House of Representatives. In addition, the party had 21 representatives in State and Territory parliaments, and over 100 local councillors. In all, 61 Greens have been elected to federal, State and Territory parliaments. In the 2010 federal election, 1.45 million House of Representatives votes were cast for the Greens, and 1.66 million Senate votes.

    Western Australian Senator Jo Vallentine was initially elected to represent the Nuclear Disarmament Party in the 1984 federal election, but left the party in 1985 and sat first as an Independent, then for the “Vallentine Peace Group” and finally, from 1990, for the Greens (WA). In her James Backhouse Memorial Lecture, Quakers in Politics: Pragmatism or Principle, delivered to the annual meeting of the Society of Friends in the year that she became a Greens representative, she recounted how she was mentored into politics by an older generation of Quaker activists, and decided to run for office after prayer for “leading” (the Quaker term for divine guidance). Perhaps appropriately, then, her election to the Senate was announced while she was attending a Quaker Peace Camp. While a Senator, she ran her office according to Quaker principles:

    “We attempt to operate a non-hierarchical model, using consensus decision-making. For example, everyone is paid the same daily rate, with my contribution to that equaliser being the handing over of my entire electorate allowance ($17,000 pa) to the team, to be spent as the group decides.”
    She also endeavoured, in the midst of the Parliamentary routine and demands of a trans-continental commute, to maintain her Quaker spirituality:

    “The start of my daily routine is fresh air and exercise, coupled with meditation, supplication and affirmation all combined … Of course, I value meeting for worship enormously, but because of so many weekend commitments, my attendance is irregular. But it’s always renewing … When things go badly, I know it’s because I haven’t been paying enough attention to the spiritual dimension.”
    At least one aspect of Quaker tradition created potential problems for her role as a Senator. Elected on a platform of environmental protection and opposition to the nuclear weapons industry, Vallentine felt she needed to maintain the Quaker commitment “to act as we believe, to ensure a correspondence between our outward, visible lives and our inward, spiritual concerns,” including through civil disobedience which, as she noted, “has landed Quakers in gaol ever since 1660.” She ascertained that “as long as I didn’t do anything dreadful enough to attract a gaol sentence of one year, I could not be thrown out of the Senate.” Vallentine was arrested three times during her parliamentary career – at an American nuclear test site in Nevada on Mother’s Day 1987, at the United States spy base in Pine Gap, south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, later in 1987, and attempting to handcuff herself to a British nuclear ship in Fremantle harbour during the bicentennial celebrations in 1988.

    After eight years, the marathon commute from Perth to Canberra took its toll on her health and she resigned in 1992, creating a casual vacancy. Her replacement was Perth psychologist Christabel Chamarette. Interviewed in 2000, Senator Chamarette explained that she had become involved in politics as a result of her work on the Social Responsibilities Committee of the Anglican Diocese of Perth. A psychologist with experience in the prison and mental health systems, after leaving Parliament in 1996, she served on the Anglican Church of Australia’s Professional Standards Committee for Western Australia.

    The first Greens MP in the House of Representatives, Michael Organ, elected Member for the NSW seat of Cunningham in a federal by-election in 2002 was described in a 2004 party media release as “one of a number of practising Christians” among the Greens NSW candidates for that year’s federal election. He was raised a Catholic and sent his children to the same Catholic school he had attended as a child, where the lessons of “compassion, peace and love” made “an easy fit” with the values he found in the Greens.

    During the 2011 NSW election campaign, two Greens candidates from the Northern Rivers region, Sue Stock and Janet Cavanaugh, expressed disappointment with the Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter, telling local newspapers that their own Christian commitments had been part of their reasons for joining the Greens. A third candidate, Simon Richardson, described Greens policies as “a very comfortable fit” with the values he had learned in his Catholic schooling, because “the Jesus I studied was concerned with compassion, equality, non-judgment and love” and “would look to the suppression of women, minority groups and the environment by current-day Pharisees with dismay.” Richardson added, “I’ll leave the bishops stuck in the 1950s to explain themselves to Him when they meet.”

    Christine Milne was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 1989 and to the Senate in 2004. She succeeded Senator Bob Brown as Leader of the Greens in federal Parliament in April 2012. She was raised a Catholic and attended Catholic schools from the age of ten, followed by residence in a Catholic university college. As a member of the Catholic Earthcare Advisory Committee, she delivered the second “Common Wealth for the Common Good” address in 2003, entitled “Reclaiming the Common Wealth for the Common Good: The Moral Challenges of Shaping a Sustainable Earth Community.” The event commemorated the Australian Catholic Bishops’ statement of 1992, Common Wealth for the Common Good, which Milne quoted:

    “the Earth is God’s creation intended for the use and enjoyment of all who inhabit it. Human beings have been entrusted with its stewardship. If this principle is accepted … it is completely unacceptable for some inhabitants of the Earth to possess far more than they need while others lack the most basic necessities.”

    Interviews with Green candidates

    To supplement these previously-recorded instances which seemed to challenge the “Godless Greens” characterisation, I interviewed Greens party members who have stood as endorsed candidates for local, state or federal government (often more than one) and who identify as Christian or who had publically discussed the relationship between religious faith and environmentalism. I contacted some by referral from Green party co-ordinators; others contacted me after an ABC radio broadcast mentioned the research. I conducted a total of thirteen interviews with Greens MPs or endorsed candidates. Here I concentrate on interviews with seven Greens candidates who identified as Christians.

    The inclusion criterion with respect to party involvement for this part of the study was having been an elected representative or endorsed candidate for the Greens (including related groups such as Greens WA). The inclusion criterion with respect to religion was being a practising Christian at the time of the interviewee’s being involved in the Greens. Not all the interviewees were the highest-profile Greens candidates: they were selected because of their willingness to articulate the connection between their political and theological commitments, and in party terms they are representative of the many people who do much of the heavy lifting in all political parties, without necessarily achieving national recognition. The selection criteria did not involve any minimum level of church involvement beyond being willing to articulate a connection between their Christian and Green commitment; but those who volunteered for this part of the study all turned out to have high levels of church involvement, beyond just attending services.

    David Collis is a Masters of Theology graduate and former church social justice worker who stood for the federal seat of Bruce in 2001, the State seat of Pascoe Vale in 2006 and the federal seat of Willis in 2007 and for Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne in 2012. Lin Hatfield-Dodds stepped aside as National Director of the Uniting Church’s national social welfare arm, UnitingCare, in order to lead the Greens ACT Senate ticket in 2010. Rob Humphreys is an ordained minister of the Uniting Church in Victoria and stood for local and state government in Victoria, and is on the Victorian Senate ticket in 2013. Lisa Owen is a Catholic laywoman who has run several social justice activities in her local parish and stood for the Victorian federal seat of Wannon in 2007 and 2010. Jim Reiher is a former theological college lecturer and author of three books on theology who, at the time of the interview, was working in full-time urban mission for the Churches of Christ denomination. His Greens involvement included standing for the division of Holt in the Victorian State election in 2005, on the Victorian Senate ticket in 2007 and for the federal seat of La Trobe in 2010, and being spokesperson for the Victorian Greens youth policy. Andrew Robjohns is a Uniting Church member who, when we spoke, was chair of his church council and Deputy Mayor of North Sydney, and also stood as the Greens candidate for North Sydney in the 2010 federal election. Tim Senior is a Uniting Church elder and lay preacher who stood as a Greens candidate for Wollondilly Shire Council, south-west of Sydney, in 2008.

    Why they joined the Greens

    It goes without saying that environmental issues are central to Greens recruits’ concerns. Most interviewees, however, stressed the confluence of environmental, human rights, and social justice concerns. Dismay at the major parties’ actions towards refugees had been a significant trigger for several. Lisa Owen told me that she had always been environmentally conscious, and had tried to persuade her parish priest to lead the church community in initiatives such as composting, a vegetable patch and tree planting. She said, “I think that you cannot be Christian without being an environmentalist, because the earth is God’s creation, and we’ve been given stewardship over it.” To her, the fact that “we have this incredible soil, and people are about to ruin it all by mining for oil and coal seam gas, and yet we’re not allowed to put up windfarms” was “sinful.” As a Catholic, “My being a Green is a response to the changes of Vatican II, a holistic way of living – my faith can’t be separated from [my politics].”

    The immediate stimulus sending her into the Greens was the “Tampa episode” in August 2001, when Prime Minister John Howard refused permission for a Norwegian freighter, the MV Tampa, to enter Australian waters with the 438 refugees the Tampa’s crew had rescued from their stranded 20m wooden fishing boat. Owen explained, “They call us [people who joined in reaction to the affair] the ‘Tampa Greens’. I’ve always cared about the environment, but for me the forefront issue was human rights.” Her parish’s social justice group called a public meeting in response to the Tampa crisis and were surprised when, in their country town, over 400 people attended. The meeting formed working groups to take on different tasks, such as lobbying and detention centre visiting. After the meeting, “I joined the Greens, because the nuns, who were at the heart of [the group], said ‘We’re all Greens’, so I joined up, and at the third or fourth meeting [the group] asked me to be the convenor.” The nuns were the same order as the ones who had taught Owen at school, and “I was just floored when they held up the Greens as the model to follow.”

    Similar motivations drove David Collis. After studying four years of theoretical physics and applied maths followed by four years of politics and psychology, Collis undertook a graduate diploma and then Masters in biblical studies. He explained:

    “My first encounter with [practical] politics was when I’d just finished my politics degree, and I was working for the Jubilee 2000 and Water Matters campaigns, living in Collins Street Baptist Church. I thought, ‘Which party actually cares about the poorest of the poor?’ The Greens and the Democrats actually supported debt cancellation (which was the theme of Jubilee 2000). The Greens were grassroots. When the Tampa happened, the only person talking about asylum seekers in a humane way was Bob Brown.”
    Collis was also impressed by hearing Brown speak next to a unionist at a rally to save a heritage building:

    “The unionist was saying that buildings are part of human creativity; and Bob Brown said, ‘Yes, and buildings are part of the substance of the earth, so it’s appropriate for an environmentalist to stand with a unionist.'”

    Tim Senior is a doctor who moved to Australia from the UK to work in Indigenous health. His family was traditionally Methodist “going back generations on both sides … My mum said Jesus would have been a socialist. For mum, her faith always came first. As the [British] Labour party moved to the right, she stayed in, but her faith meant more.” For Senior:

    “Moving to Australia made it easier to break the bonds with Labour. The Greens was the only party I consistently agreed with. They were the only ones making sensible statements about the environment, human rights, refugees, Aboriginal issues.”

    Andrew Robjohns joined the Liberal Party on his sixteenth birthday, and then formed a branch “because there wasn’t one for me to join.” He left the Liberal Party when John Howard returned to the leadership because “I couldn’t stand the nastiness,” specifying race relations and human rights as particular concerns. To him, the Greens and the church both encompass “Jesus’ vision of living with other people, especially people who were previously enemies.”

    Like Robjohns, Rev. Rob Humphreys described himself as a “lifelong Liberal voter” until he found he could no longer support the Liberals after 1998 because he felt that the party was too close to Pauline Hanson, and “I could see where all that was going.” He voted Democrat for a few elections, before joining the Greens. He felt quite at home in the party, whose consensus decision-making process was very similar to that used by the Uniting Church.

    Churches of Christ theologian Jim Reiher had resigned from the Greens by the time of our interview. He described the break as neither final nor ideological, but for the sake of concentrating on other things, including writing a book. When I contacted him to check facts for this paper, he said that, although he had not rejoined the party, he expected to be helping his Green friends on polling booths in September 2013. He described his path into the Greens as closely related to his theological journey.

    Reiher came from a Labor family: his father, an ALP member and bread carter, had favourite sayings, including “God put our hearts a little left of centre.” The household was not particularly religious to begin with. Reiher converted to Christianity as a teenager, followed first by his sister and then his parents. His early religious experiences saw him moving between Anglicans, Assemblies of God and Baptists. After lecturing at the Assemblies of God’s Harvest Bible College, he moved at the beginning of 2000 to Tabor College Victoria, a multi-denominational Bible college which describes itself as “Bible-based, evangelical and charismatic,” where “students are not expected to agree with everything taught” and “no attempt will be made by the College to impose doctrines on students.” The atmosphere seems to have come as a relief to Reiher, who described “an important turning point” in 2000: he “gave up trying to be a fundamentalist” and in 2002 decided to join the Greens.

    “I was always politically left of centre. I tried hard to be theologically conservative because I was told by Christians from when I was aged 16 onwards that that’s how it had to be. 12 years ago, I made a conscious decision that I couldn’t be.”
    Lin Hatfield-Dodds stepped down from her position as National Director of the Uniting Church’s social justice arm, UnitingCare, in order lead the Greens’ ACT Senate ticket in 2010. Her attempted move from into politics was prompted by:

    “A genuine sense of ‘call’. It didn’t come as letters of fire on the wall, but it was a definite call. In my family of origin and in the Uniting Church tradition I am a part of, you never see a problem without trying to be part of the solution. I spent years bemoaning the shallowing of public policy and the professionalization of politics. I’ve been lucky enough to be loved all my life, to have had a tertiary education, and at some point you have to think, ‘I’ve got to be available for public service, rather than just throwing up my hands’.”

    Theology and politics

    The participants represented a wide theological spectrum, including Catholic and Protestant, theologically liberal and evangelical. All emphasised a connection between their theology and politics. Andrew Robjohns had been involved in the church as a child, but left at the age of nine: “I was interested in the theology, but not in the paper cut-out Jesus.” He resumed a church involvement in his thirties, after he had joined the Greens, and as a result of contacting churches to organise a local demonstration against the invasion of Iraq. He explained:

    “My political and also theological position comes from Jesus: when you work out how to live with the enemy … Jesus’s kingdom has been 2000 years coming, and I think it is achievable in our lifetime, but so many people seem waiting for someone else to make it happen.”
    Jim Reiher mused:

    “I can’t see how people can read the scriptures and not come out on the left. It grieves me that people can read the scriptures and don’t make the step of applying it to their lives. Everything about the Liberal Party is about accumulating wealth. Tony Abbott made a joke about ‘the Good Samaritan wasn’t a public servant’ – but what was he really saying?”

    Several interviewees particularly valued the fact that going to church compelled them into close community with people with whom they did not necessarily have much else in common and with whom they did not necessarily agree about very much. Tim Senior reflected:

    “Church is the only place I go where I meet people from a wide variety of backgrounds, where we care for and support each other and devote our attention to thinking about other people and direct our attention to them in prayer. There’s no other place where that happens. It’s that combination of intellectual and emotional engagement.”
    To Rob Humphreys, the Uniting Church minister, “What the Greens stand for is totally consistent with what the church is on about. The Greens are what the church stands for minus the God-talk.” Others were at pains to stress that their fellow church members come to different political views. For Lin Hatfield-Dodds:

    “If you drew a Venn diagram with the values, ways of acting and so on, the Greens and the Uniting Church overlap a lot for me. For plenty of Uniting Church people they wouldn’t, for plenty of Greens they wouldn’t, so it’s very personal.”
    Tim Senior reflected:

    “It seems obvious to me that we should value every individual. I don’t know whether I have that from my faith and then apply it outwards, or whether I’d have it even if Christianity didn’t hold that. I’m very happy for other people to be nonreligious, atheist, Muslim, or other views. Christianity gives me a vocabulary for saying how we should value other people, and one that engages the emotions. It’s not enough just to know that we should be nice to other people, you have to feel it as well. When you see someone in need, that’s your God looking back at you.”

    David Collis no longer identified as a Christian by the time of our interview, explaining he had “gradually drifted away from theism, towards a similar value system.” Nevertheless, he had no regrets about doing his Masters of Theology, with a thesis on Isaiah 44 – “a beautiful passage, I still love it.” The Greens and traditional religion shared “a value system which is in touch with … streams of deep historical and cultural value.”

    Faith and policy

    As one might expect for endorsed candidates, all the interviewees supported not just the environmental and human rights aspects of Greens policy, but also the aspects, such as marriage equality and assisted voluntary euthanasia, most stringently attacked by conservative Christian critics. The Christian candidates in my sample did not merely take these policies on sufferance, or as a matter of compromise: they insisted that they comprised essential parts of an integrated theological and political vision.

    Jim Reiher explained, “I am pro-choice. I’d love to see no abortions, but banning it doesn’t work. There are better ways to reduce the abortion rate.” He also said, “I support gay marriage,” and in 2013 his website carries an article entitled “Why Some Christians Support Gay Marriage in the Wider Community.” Lisa Owen found it hard to imagine how a Christian could not support marriage equality, a view that she traced back to her theological studies under George Pell thirty-five years earlier.

    “Same-sex attracted teenagers are eight times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teenagers. Just in that figure there – if you can’t get married, you’re an outsider …
    Christ said nothing against homosexuality, not one word … Christ was a rebel. Christ came to redeem humanity and involve everyone in God’s saving grace. Marriage is a malleable institution, it’s been constantly changing, we’ve had polygamy, slavery, it’s all been a part of marriage – so how can we say that marriage is just this one, narrow thing?
    As far as the sacrament is concerned, it happens between the couple; they don’t even have to go to church. Something evolves between the couple, and therein lies the physical presence of God on earth. So how does that exclude same sex couples? We have developed rites of passage, and they have become very important in our society. They are about property as far as the state is concerned, but also it’s about community, communities come together and share in the life of that couple, and share in the love of that couple. And if you belong to a group that’s shut out of that, then you’re shut out of community.
    And marriage is the beginning point of family – well, for some – and family is the starting point of community, and community is vital to Christianity, to how we get together and fix the world. So if you’re a same-sex attracted teen, of course you’re going to feel more depressed, anxious, shut out of community.”

    The interviewees knew that their political views were not shared by everyone in their church circles. They also believed that their Christian faith was also a minority position within the Greens; but few had experienced hostility from either side. Lisa Owen described her Greens colleagues’ reaction to her faith as “more bewildered than anti.” Andrew Robjohns commented that most people in his congregation “are pretty conservative – they probably mostly still vote Liberal because they liked Bob Menzies! – but they are generally supportive of having a Greens councillor in church.”

    Over successive State and federal elections, the ACL, along with some other church and parachurch organisations, distributed “Christian Values Voter Guides,” scoring the parties’ policies against “Christian values.” ACL’s guides have consistently scored the Greens last, as the party whose policies correlate least with “Christian values.” During the 2006 Victorian State election, Reiher, Collis and Humphreys became frustrated by the ACL’s distribution of voter guides portraying the Greens as failing to uphold Christian values, and so produced their own unofficial election flyer. On one side it read, “The Greens and Christian Values Go Hand In Hand,” with six dot points drawing comparisons between Green policy and Christian principles (care for creation, justice for all, freedom from oppression, being peacemakers, fair distribution of resources and respect for human diversity). The other side read “Let Your Faith in God be Seen: Vote Green,” with supporting quotations from the Old Testament book of Micah, the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, and “Jim Reiher, Theology Lecturer.”

    The origins of the myth

    The portrayal of environmentalists as “anti-Christian” or “anti-religious” is not unique to Australia. Internationally, it has been promoted by a group called the Cornwall Alliance, whose backers are closely aligned with fossil fuel interests. In Australia, such claims emerged with particular force in the lead up to the 2010 federal election. However, they had at least a 25-year history in Australian political debate, originating with neither church nor political leaders, but with mining executives whose theological pronouncements earned them the nickname “the fundamentalists” from colleagues in rival companies, and their spokesperson the moniker “Hugh the Baptist.”

    In May 1984, Hugh Morgan, Executive Director of Western Mining Corporation and immediate past president of the Australian Mining Industry Council, addressed the Council’s annual Mining Outlook Seminar, held in Canberra and attended by the federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Clyde Holding and Federal Home Affairs and Environment Minister Barry Cohen. It was to them, rather than to the mining executives, that Morgan particularly addressed his remarks. The speech, which takes up over 11 pages in the published proceedings, was almost entirely about theology. Mining companies, he argued, were following the New Testament’s instructions. “Our task, our obligation … in terms of St. Paul’s exhortation, first to the Corinthians 1900 years ago [1 Corinthians 7:20] and ever since as a continuing demand is to be good miners, successful miners, profitable miners.” So clashes between mining companies and their critics – environmentalists and supporters of Indigenous land rights – were nothing less than:

    “[a] clash between the Christian orthodoxy of those who work, including the miners, who as St. Paul told us, are abiding in the same calling wherein we are called, and must perforce find the best orebodies wherever they may be; and the Manichean style commitments of those who regard rivers, or trees, or rocks, or aboriginal sites as belonging to the spiritual world; who regard such sites as incommensurable, and seek to legislate such incommensurability into the statute books.”

    The speech gained such traction that news and current affairs reports were still referring to it more than a year after its delivery. Morgan, who described himself as an Anglican but “only an occasional churchgoer,” continued to establish the themes of “Godless Greens” that would prove so powerful decades later. In 1991, he framed the debate between mining companies and environmentalists as a “battle against the antinomians of environmentalism,” warning of “the threats posed by the green antinomians, to the mining industry and to Australia.”

    The Hawke government’s decision to ban mining at Coronation Hill in order to protect a sacred site of the Jawoyn people was evidence, he said, that the Prime Minister had “quite simply, become what is best described as a neo-pagan, and [Hawke’s] defence of paganism has become more emotional as the Coronation Hill debate progressed.” Christianity had to be defended because “some religions” – of which Christianity was one – “are more conducive to economic success than others.”

    In 1992, in the wake of the Rio Earth Summit, Morgan described the environmental movement as “a religious movement of the most primitive kind, nature worship, coupled with extreme distaste for the human race, which in a short space of time has established a dominant position among a powerful and influential group in Western society.” Morgan characterised environmentalism as “chattering-class religion” promising “economic decline,” while the Rio Earth Summit had produced a “commitment to global warming as an act of faith” which “represents a retreat into superstition.”

    Morgan’s mission included restoring Christianity to theological orthodoxy. He explained in a speech to the H.R. Nicholls Society (a conservative ginger group co-founded by another Western Mining executive, Ray Evans) that he had realised in 1982, after criticism of the mining industry from the Uniting and Catholic churches’ respective social justice bodies, that churches were central to what he termed “the Culture Wars.” Morgan explained that the need to engage in “the Culture Wars” had been brought home to him by a comic book, produced by the social justice arms of the Uniting and Catholic churches in NSW, which criticised the mining industry’s environmental and Indigenous rights record. Morgan threatened the churches with defamation and had the book’s “tens of thousands of undistributed copies” pulped. Nevertheless, he “had not the background” for “engagement in the Culture Wars,” so his theological crusades were “due so much to the encouragement of Ray in our very close working relationship at WMC.” The “Ray” referred to here was Ray Evans, former Deputy Dean of Engineering at Deakin University, who joined Western Mining in May 1982. Evans’s several think tank connections besides the H.R. Nicholls Society included the Lavoisier Group, founded in March 2000 with Morgan as President, devoted to challenging the science of climate change.

    In 1994, the Galatians Group was founded by Uniting Church minister Rev. Dr Max Champion. Taking its name from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (3:28) – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – the group followed the same model as the think tanks started by Morgan, Evans and their associates: holding conferences with eminent speakers and publishing proceedings. The group held four conferences, at which Evans spoke at two (on “Justice and Millenarianism” and “Gnosticism and the High Court”) and another Western Mining employee addressed a third. Other speakers addressed topics like “The Political Seduction of the Church” and “The Green Utopians.”

    Evans is also acknowledged as the inspiration for a book published in 1995 by Bendigo academic Roger Sworder, entitled Mining, Metallurgy and the Meaning of Life: A Book of Stories Showing the Hidden Roots of the Great Debate over Mining and the Environment. The book argues that “of all the crafts and professions other than the priesthood, none has been more closely connected with the religious traditions of western peoples than mining and metallurgy” and that mining’s modern critics are engaged in “an active rejection of the spirit.”

    In 1996, Morgan was appointed to the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia. After a series of expensive corporate misadventures, Morgan retired from Western Mining in 2003, sooner than planned, after efforts to “clip his wings” and “curb his inflammatory tongue” on the part of the company going back to the mid-1990s. Morgan’s campaign to reclaim Christianity for the mining industry was part of the wider “Culture Wars” which, by the end of the 1990s, had had a considerable degree of success, repositioning Christianity (or at least its public representation) to the right.

    Much of the crusade against “anti-Christian” Greens was taken up by the Australian Christian Lobby. Formed in 1995 as the Australian Christian Coalition, the group adopted its current name in 2001. Its website states that it “operates in the Federal Parliament, and in all the state and territory parliaments,” although it does not appear on the register of parliamentary lobbyists. Its objections to the Greens derive significantly from the party’s stance on marriage equality, opposition to which features so consistently in ACL campaigns that some observers have argued that ACL has become close to a single-issue organisation. Its website states that it is not “party partisan,” making it worthwhile to examine further its consistent opposition to one party, which has extended to calling for the Greens’ “removal” from federal Parliament. ACL’s proximity to the mineral and resources sector should be considered as one source of such hostility to the Greens.

    ACL’s structure is corporate rather than democratic, with the Managing Director, state directors and the rest of its 20-member staff answering to a seven-member Board. The Board is chaired by Tony McLellan, a company chairman of not-for-profits and mining companies and director of the Liberal Party’s think tank, the Menzies Research Centre. McLellan, in addition to his directorship of the Menzies Research Centre, has a background in mining, including, through Felix Resources, coal, an industry frequently at odds with both the Labor and Green parties during the 2010-2013 electoral term over the introduction of mining and carbon taxes. McLellan’s other board activities have included Bemax Resources (mineral sands and titanium dioxide) and Norton Gold Fields. He is also chairman of ASX-listed Elementos Limited, which has an active exploration program for gold and silver in Argentina.

    ACL is a registered company limited by guarantee. It relies on donations from private individuals and businesses. It does not disclose names of its members or donors. The Power Index cited a membership of 15,000. Although it releases annual reports, these contain no financial records. The Power Index cited a budget of $2 million. Since 2007, Australian electoral law requires disclosure of political donations over a certain amount ($11,900 in 2012). ACL disclosed no donations for the financial years 2009-10 and 2011-12. In the financial year 2007-8, it received $113,239 from Bangarie Pty Ltd, the investment company of MYOB software entrepreneur Craig Winkler, a regular donor to many causes, including the conservative political party Family First. In 2010-11, it received $30,000 from Gloria Jean’s Coffees International, $13,636 from superannuation firm Christian Super and $100,000 from an individual called Neil Golding. The post office box address given for Neil Golding on the Australian Electoral Commission disclosure form is the address of CQ Realty real estate business in Gladstone, suggesting that this Neil Golding is the son and long-time business partner of Queensland mining and construction magnate Cyril Golding, whose Gladstone-based Golding Contracting undertook mining, mine construction and mining infrastructure.

    While these donations represent only a small proportion of the budget, they are consistent with the business and conservative party backgrounds of its founders and board members.


    Christians, like other Australians, hold different opinions about the appropriate response to environmental problems. Despite occasional references to a supposed “Christian vote,” Australian Christians have never voted as a bloc. Nevertheless, some church and political leaders have portrayed one party, the Greens, as “anti-Christian,” “pagan,” “atheist” or “anti-religious.” Prima facie, this claim seems challenged by the numbers of Christians who have represented the Greens as candidates, including the first Greens to sit in each chamber of the federal Parliament. Interviews with Greens candidates who identified as practising Christians, exploring the connections they drew between their theological and political commitments, found that they understood their choice of party as being not in spite of, but as an expression of, their religious beliefs. In addition to environmental concerns, human rights was a paramount motivation, especially Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

    Claims that the Greens are “anti-Christian,” “pagan,” “atheist” or “anti-religious” are often justified by reference to aspects of the party’s social policy, such as marriage equality and support for a right to assisted voluntary euthanasia for the terminally ill. These topics are often the subject of heated debate within churches, and public opinion surveys suggest that support for such positions enjoys similar levels of support among Christians as in the general population. The candidates interviewed saw the Greens’ position as a valid expression of a Christian ethic.

    In addition to reservations about social policy, claims that the Greens are “anti-Christian,” “pagan,” “atheist” or “anti-religious” have sometimes rested on the idea that concern for the environment is akin to “nature-worship” or to various heretical positions such as Gnosticism, antinomianism or Manichaeism, and that support for the Greens represents a fundamental assault on the philosophical roots of “Western” or “Judaeo-Christian” civilisation. As far as my historical study has been able to ascertain, these ideas were first introduced into Australian political discourse not by theologians but by mining executives. That at least some of those promoting the “Godless Greens” theme in the public arena today, although speaking under the mantle of parachurch organisations, nevertheless share financial interests with those who stand to lose financially from Greens policies (such as a carbon price, mining tax and higher use of renewable energy), should be a further reason to exercise caution about such claims.

    Further investigations of how the “Culture Wars” played out in Australia should include a focus on the switch in public characterisations of Christians from soft-leftist “bleeding hearts” to opponents of that same political tendency, especially as strong humanitarian and environmental concerns become increasingly represented by the Greens.

    Professor Marion Maddox has been the Director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, and is currently an ARC Future Fellow researching religion and politics in Australia.

  3. I say the Lord’s prayer often, and my kids know it off by heart.

    “when in the 1970s Adelaide singing nun Sister Janet Mead sent it to the top of the pop charts.”

    Maybe they should sing it with guitar singing nun style in parliament.

    Gee, I’m old enough to remember saying it in school, thinking someone was cool for being able to play it on guitar, taking hats off for God Save the Queen, and having a photo of Elizabeth in the music hall. Come to think of it, there was a photo of her in most Church halls too.

    And believe it or not, in my town they played the anthem at the cinemas.
    Was that a Queensland thing? care of Bjelke Joh?

    As for the Greenies, some of the ones I knew started out with the Anarchists in uni…

    We need a Christian Anarchist Party.

    Then again

  4. Yes, we had to stand and say The Lord’s Prayer everyday in a state school and sing God Save The Queen. Pretty sure there were the same comments when we went from God save the Queen to the atheistic/secular Advance Australia Fair.

    Speaking of which, not many people know the second verse, which we sing at school.

    “”For those who’ve come across the sea we’ve boundless plains to share”.

    Definitely need to change that.

  5. I remember being handed one of those ACL handouts about the Biblical value of each party which came down to if you love Jesus, vote Liberal.

    I remember it didn’t mention asylum seekers.

    What’s fascinating from that article I posted is how the mining industry has permeated the ACL.

    So the ACL is lodging an ideological war against the Greens in the veiled guise of Biblical Christianity.

    How cynical is that?

  6. God save the Queen isnt much about God as about the Queen, Empire and ourselves.

    It has some strange verses, eg. this one sounds like its been written by Steve:

    O Lord our God arise
    Scatter her enemies
    And make them fall
    Confound their politics
    Frustrate their knavish tricks
    On Thee our hopes we fix
    God save us all

    (Steve probably sings that every morning when he kisses the portrait of the Queen and places it above his computer monitor before a long day of blogging)

    And then there is the famous :

    Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
    May by thy mighty aid,
    Victory bring.
    May he sedition hush,
    and like a torrent rush,
    Rebellious Scots to crush,
    God save the King.

  7. Bones: The Greens are Christian.

    Reality: The Greens want to wipe away all reference to Christianity in Parliament.

    Something about ‘church and state’, which is actually about the state not interfering with religion, not the other way round.

    I guarantee they will leave the ‘welcome to country’ ceremonies intact, despite their religious connotations.

  8. Bones,
    ‘I remember it didn’t mention asylum seekers.’

    That would have been back in the day when the boats were stopped, so between 2002 and 2007.

    What the heck has the ACL to do with anything? Is the just an equivalence to detour us from the actual fact that the Greens are seeking to eliminate a Christian reference from the Parliament which has been there since Federation?

    It’ll be kicked out, just as it has been every other time. The Greens are a joke and waste of good Parliamentary seats.

  9. Steve: The Greens are atheists or pagans

    Reality: They have a high proportion of Christians in their membership.

    .”I guarantee they will leave the ‘welcome to country’ ceremonies intact, despite their religious connotations.”

    Who cares?

  10. Steve: The Greens are atheists or pagans

    Where did I say this? Nowhere.

    Or maybe you can point out to the good folk where I said this. I don’t mind if some identify with Christianity, but, contrary to this, they are attempting to remove all Christian references from Parliament, and on the wrong premise, that is the actual reality, as revealed in the bill being presented to the Parliament. Duh!

    The Greens are nincompoops.

    So, tell us, Bones, do you think we should keep the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament, or not?

  11. Where did I say this? Nowhere.

    We could start with “Greens senators are free to restrict their spirituality to addressing “fellow Earthians” about Gaia.”

    Do I really need to dig up every reference to Gaia though?

    So, tell us, Bones, do you think we should keep the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament, or not?

    Care factor: zero.

    Like taking away saying the Lord’s Prayer everyday at school.

    People are still chomping over that one.

    Chomp.Chomp Chomp Bad Evil Greens.

  12. The article is an Editorial from a newspaper. I didn’t actually say it. Whether it is true or not is another matter, but the quote was from a Bob Brown speech, so it must have some merit.

    So you don’t even have an opinion on the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament. You just wanted to waffle on about some irrelevant equivalence and evidence of the Greens new found Christian piety.

    The greens are a sham party with sham ideas which almost sent Australia down the tube under Gillard and Brown. I see even the Tasmanian Labour Party wants to dump them. If only they’d listened to reason in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

    By the way, Frazer was totally wrong about the election. The Liberals won easily and the Greens were seriously diminished. The Labour Party paid the price of getting into bed with them in the first place. And were are Rudd, Brown and Gillard today? His prophecy of doom was rendered null and void.

  13. o you don’t even have an opinion on the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament.

    When did you last pray The Lord’s Prayer?

    Or anyone who doesn’t go to a traditional church.

    If you think Australia’s a Christian country you might want to think again.

    It’s irrelevant when we clearly aren’t interested in God anyway. Just need to look at how we treat asylum seekers.

    It’s farcical.

    ““Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me” Jeremiah 11:14

    You just wanted to waffle on about some irrelevant equivalence and evidence of the Greens new found Christian piety.

    No, just showing your talking crap again.

    By the way, Frazer was totally wrong about the election.

    Of course he was. He thought Australians were better than that. In reality the asylum seeker debate was poisoned not unlike 1930s Germany.

    Better change the second verse of Advance Australia Fair, hey.

    You won’t like that.

  14. What the dickens are you going on about, Bones?

    We pray the Lord’s Prayer in our church all the time. We just had a series on it by our pastor. Coincidentally, we had J John come and speak and he chose to teach on it. He gave me his book on it which is a six part study for small groups because I run small groups as part of my job, and which one of our groups has agreed to adopt as a series of studies.

    It is considered a vital prayer pattern for the Church in our movement.

    You really are a strange person. You purport to be Christian yet you spend most of your time on this blog attacking evangelicals and making extraordinarily weird claims about them. You downplay the importance of the bible, remove entire books of scripture from the canon, and hit out at Pentecostals even though you attend a Pentecostal church.

    Now you think the Lords Prayer is unimportant to us.

    Mr Fraser, if you read what he said in your election campaign quote, said little of any substance whatsoever, gave no evidence for what he said, and merely grumbled a lot about the liberal party, which he has done ever since he lost the election to Bob Hawke sometime in the 80’s.

    The other quote you gave from him stated exactly what I gave as a solution for the asylum seekers and you still refuse to acknowledge that. In attacking my solution you attack his.


  15. Yes we’ll keep the Lord’s Prayer.


    Next issue.

    It was good to find who was truly behind the ACL though.

    You purport to be Christian…


  16. Yep, more important issues than whether or not a prayer hardly anyone believes is read out by people who could hardly give a shit.

  17. Those vain pollies swear upon the Holy Bible, but yet they do not read,
    James 5:12
    Amplified Bible (AMP)
    12 But above all [things], my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath; but let your yes be [a simple] yes, and your no be [a simple] no, so that you may not sin and fall under condemnation.

    And I think I stand beneath Gods word, yet holding it up.
    But not above Gods word and pushing it down.

  18. “OK so you’re not a Christian. I guess that explains a lot.”

    It took you this long to figure that out? ????+????AND???? ❓

  19. Bones doesn’t know what he is. Except frustrated and angry. In the next post he’ll claim to be a Christian don’t worry.

    If he could stop being so abusive and keep the copy and pastes to a limit of 10 times the length of the original post he’d be easier to follow.

  20. “Q’ll agree with Steve, even if Steve said that black was white.”


    It’s possible to have a conversation with Steve. And he presents his own thoughts.

    Tell me when he says black is white.

  21. Eyes,
    ‘It took you this long to figure that out?’

    No. It took this long for Bones to admit it.

    “Q’ll agree with Steve, even if Steve said that black was white.”

    Er, wait a minute, didn’t you just slap Q down for disagreeing with an entire policy I produced on the other thread whilst at the same time defending my right to have that opinion?

    You’re losing yourself in these petty attacks on people, Bones, let alone any arguments.

    ‘Yep, more important issues than whether or not a prayer hardly anyone believes is read out by people who could hardly give a shit.’

    There are around 60 to 70 professing Christians in the Australian Parliament for whom opening the sittings with the Lord’s Prayer would have a definite significance. There are still others who appreciate and uphold the traditions of the Parliament for whom it would also have a significance.

    It is also an important issue for a large chunk of the 69% Christian population of Australia.

    The Editorial in the Australian is representative of what many Australians think of the petty antics of the pointless Greens. maybe you’e in the 8% and falling minority who support the Greens, but whatever you are today, Christian or not, the Lord’s Prayer remains important for many, and having it in the Parliament is a great encouragement.

    If it was still in he schools maybe the left leaning educators would have less influence over how the children of our nation develop, which is important in view of how much the standard has slipped in recent years.

  22. This article written by John Dickson, an Anglican Minister in Sydney, is, i think, a great starting point when considering the loss of The Lords Prayer in Parliament:

    Letting go of the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament
    By John Dickson
    Updated Fri 17 Jan 2014, 9:58am AEDT

    There is something worse than irreligion: hypocritical religion.
    PHOTO: There is something worse than irreligion: hypocritical religion. (ABC News)
    The loss of the Lord’s Prayer from the seat of national power would be lamentable, but so would allowing this holy tradition to become a piece of historical theatre, writes John Dickson.

    The proposal of the Greens to drop the Lord’s Prayer from Parliament rightly saddens Christians around the country; but, then, so should the saying of a prayer that nobody really means. The Christian love of prayer is more than matched by the Bible’s aversion to hypocrisy.

    Acting Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale reckons we should scrap this tradition, which has been in place since 1901, to emphasise the separation of church and state, especially as a small but significant minority of the population holds to “no religion” or to a non-Christian religion.

    It is only natural that Christians would lament this development. It is a genuine sorrow at the thought that one of the great fountains of Western culture – the teaching of Jesus – is being ignored or sidelined.

    Imagine the reaction of the residents of Bowral to a NSW Government planning decision a hundred years from now to discontinue all capital grants to the Don Bradman museum and reclaim the land for a casino. If it is the will of the NSW public to go ahead with such a renovation, of course it should go ahead, but they shouldn’t think the locals strange for lamenting the demise of what they consider a national treasure.

    The analogy isn’t perfect, but it conveys something of the emotional logic of the Christian response to Senator Di Natale’s proposal.

    More to the point – and I hope I am not being sacrilegious in another sense here – the teaching of Jesus has influenced Australian society infinitely more than has the Don!

    Obviously, much of our language comes from the Bible: the blind leading the blind, a law unto themselves, sign of the times, two-edge sword, pearls before swine, sweat of the brow, salt of the earth, all things to all men, and countless other incidental expressions come directly from biblical teachings.

    But these are simply tokens of the much more significant reality that Western culture is the product of deeply Jewish and Christian convictions. “Love your neighbour as yourself” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you” are not mere archaic proverbs. They are the heart and soul of the West’s instinct for compassion in public and private life. They did not come from Greece and Rome, the other two cultures that shaped Western civilisation. As political philosopher and atheist Jürgen Habermas concedes, “Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom, human rights and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. To this day, there is no alternative to it.”

    The sadness Christians will feel if the Parliament no longer says the Lord’s Prayer is not because they think Australia will suddenly become pagan and lawless without this token of Christian influence. It is more because this would signal a denial of the significance of Christ’s teaching for our country’s history and health. I hope wider society will not interpret it as the Church’s attempt to bully Australians into Christian practice.

    There is probably an additional reason Christians would mourn the loss of the Lord’s Prayer from the seat of national power. Whatever else prayer might be, it is an act of humility. There is something beautiful and noble about our leaders acknowledging they are not “top dog” in the universe – expressing out loud that they are accountable to Something higher than themselves and that, despite their commitment to using every faculty of human reason, they could do with some outside assistance. There aren’t many marks of humility in our society anymore. The Lord’s Prayer would be missed.

    All of that said, those who know the teaching of Jesus well have to acknowledge that there is something worse than irreligion: hypocritical religion. Jesus launched the word “hypocrite” into all Western languages. The word means “pretender” and a reading of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’s harshest criticisms – and there are quite a few – were directed not at the so called “sinners” but at the “Pharisees”, those he accused of saying one thing and believing and doing another. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” he says in the Gospel of Matthew. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead.” In Mark’s Gospel he says, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.”

    If a majority of Australians and their representatives no longer believe that there is Someone on the other end of the prayer-line, then of course the Lord’s Prayer should be dropped from Parliament. Christians despise hypocrisy (at least in theory). Merely pretending to pray, as a piece of historical theatre, is something no Christian should want to see continue.

    The issue, I suppose, is that a lot of Christians still hold out hope that recent surveys of Australian beliefs are accurate: most of us believe in God; most still pray sometimes; most believe miracles are possible; most think Jesus had a special connection to the Almighty (Neilson poll 2009; McCrindle Research 2009). If this is true, it’s probably appropriate to keep the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament, especially since no one is forced to pray it.

    If, however, things are otherwise, as a director of the Centre for Public Christianity, I am all for dropping the Lord’s Prayer from Parliament. If the Greens are right that a majority of Australians and their representatives want to drop this token of humility, spirituality and acknowledgment of the West’s heritage, then I would go so far as to say that the One who taught us this prayer would himself urge us to stop honouring him merely with our lips.

    Dr John Dickson is an author and historian, and a founding director of the Centre for Public Christianity. View his full profile here.

  23. Chapter V. The States.

    Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act

    116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

    The truth is our system of government owes more to Greek democracy and the Renaissance than Christianity. One could argue that liberalism sprung from the Reformation although what the Reformation really did politically was break the power of the Catholic Church.

    ““Love your neighbour as yourself” and “Do to others as you would have them do to you” are not mere archaic proverbs. ”

    Mr Dickson is correct with that assertion however the ‘Golden Rule’ can also be found in Ancient China, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. It’s also found in Baha’i, Brahman, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jainist, Judaist, Mohist, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikh, Taoist, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian teachings as well as indigenous cultures.

    It’s not so much a religious teaching as a universal moral code.

  24. The Australian Parliamentary system has its origins in the English Westminter system, which has its roots in the Magna Carta, so it is based on Judeo-Christian principles. It led to reforms which ultimately took the power from monarchs and put them in the hands of the gentry, then the barons, and then the people.

    It took a long time to evolve into today’s system, but has been instrumental in the creation of common law, and also runs parallel with the development of the English language as we know it.

  25. Magna Carta? I didnt know you supported treason and rebellion.

    How did you get Judeo-Christian principles from Magna Carta – it supposedly granted liberties and rights to the church as well as all free men, but its not a particularly Christian document.

  26. Who said I supported anything? You’re always looking for conflict, wazza. Why don’t you just chill out for a change and have a decent conversation?

    I just gave an indication of the importance of the Westminster system and its origins. There were several other factors, but the defence of England against the papacy and his puppet king, John, was a historic fact which led, ultimately, to a complete detachment from Rome, albeit through Henry 8s marital excesses.

    Neither did I say it didn’t come without conflict. The Australian Parliament is the only democracy utilising this form of Government to have come into existence without a conflict or civil war.

    The Magna Carta in itself didn’t solve that much, but the concept of government for the people by the people was very much inherent in it. It was the begging of the end of the power of kings ad queens in England, although it took a few generations.

    If you want to denounce the Christian element go ahead, but there wasn’t much happening in England, or Europe for that matter, at that time which did not involve the Church in some way, so I don’t think your rebuttal has much of a leg to stand on. And if it’s Christian, it has Jewish roots.

    I was responding to the claim that the Australian system had Greek roots, that’s all.


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