The last week has seen wide reporting of the activities of “religious right” in New South Wales’ politics. This has met with almost universal disapproval in the media.
The involvement of Christians in politics is somehow thought to be immoral by some commentators. It is as if a democracy is where everybody is entitled to have a say in government except those who believe something. It is as if only those with religious beliefs are biased and unfit for any governmental position.
This requires such a rewriting of our history so as to remove all and any reference to God. In the past our Soldiers fought for “God Empire and Nation”. Our previous nation anthem was a prayer starting with the word “God”. Our Constitution’s preface starts by referring to “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God”. The overwhelming majority of the people believe in God and identify themselves as “Christian”.
The pillorying of the religious right requires the arrogance of anti-Christian commentators to assume that they themselves are objective, mainstream and moderate. The word “extremist” seems almost welded onto the term “religious right”.
Should Christians be involved in politics and if so what kind?
In a democracy where all citizens are given the right and responsibility to play an appropriately active part in affairs of the country then of course Christians should play their part in the political processes. It would be irresponsible not to do so.
In a nation where the values of the nation are set by the present population it is important that Christian alongside every other view express the relevance of their values for the good government of the land.
All office bearers are influenced in their decisions by their values. To clarify what those values are and where they have been derived from is honest and sensible. To claim that we are unaffected by our religious convictions (be they Christian or anti-Christian) is to lack self-awareness. It is a naive folly.
But in a political world divided between the right-wing capitalists and left-wing socialists, which party should Christians support?
There are certain values of the capitalists that are attractive to Christian conscience. There is the concern for freedom of conscience and taking responsibility for you own actions and decisions. Similarly, there are certain values of the socialists that are attractive to the Christian conscience. There is the concern for the communal reality of humanity especially in the provision for the more vulnerable members of society.
The Christian will also find both sides unattractive. Both, at heart, are materialistic. Economic considerations are primary. The socialists’ position rests on the basis of jealousy while the capitalist position is based on greed. Both of these encourage division within society. Neither of these is particularly attractive to the Christian. As Ecclesiastes describes it “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from man’s envy of his neighbour. This also is vanity and a striving after the wind.”
Both the socialist and the capitalist model have the fatal defect for the Christian that they are materialist philosophies. Materialistic philosophies may be appropriate on a narrow range of some economic strategies. As a general philosophy for society materialism is a failed, stunted and defective view of life. The Christian capitalist just like the Christian socialist is compromised by dependence upon materialism.
But today neither of the two main parties really expresses the capitalist-socialist divide. While both have their roots on one side of the divide, they each seek to gain the middle ground of Australian voters’ allegiance. The worse thing to call your opponents is “extremist, divisive, fringe”.
The Christian in politics will not have as the highest agenda of right or left-wing materialistic philosophies but social concerns about life and death, justice and values. This will not necessarily make them better politicians. You can have very noble values and be quite ineffective in giving expression to them. These values will also not give the Christian the right to rule over the majority that does not share these values. That is democracy – the majority decides who will govern irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of their values.
But Christians have every much right to offer their values to the electorate as anybody else. That too is democracy.