In every election, the one issue on which I base my entire voting decision is this: How good are the various party leaders at discussing social issues in a way that pleases church groups with which I have no affiliation?
I’m in the majority here. This issue, I think, goes to the heart of any serious voter’s calculations, involving as it does so many of the important considerations we have to deal with as informed citizens of a democracy. Considerations like, how do I want my children to grow up? Do I want them to grow up at all? Are there gays outside my window? Why do I get funny feelings when I browse the magazine aisle at Woolworths? How can my elected leaders make me feel like a better person without my having to actually do anything worthwhile? These are the things that determine how comfortably our lives proceed, and we need to know that our politicians are making some sort of convincing pretence at caring about them.
This is not, of course, to deny the secular nature of our society. There is a solid, non-negotiable wall of separation between church and state in this country, and that is something that can never be violated until we have all of our people in position; so I’m not for a second advocating theocracy.
No, what I am saying is that events like the recent national webcast wherein Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott answered questions from, and reached out to, Australian Christians, are important as a gauge of candidates’ moral compass. Of course it’s possible to be a moral person without Christianity, it’s just incredibly hard: as the Bible says, it’s easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of an ass, than it is for the fool to say in his heart, "Get up and walk." Truer words were never mistranslated.
After all, you don’t have to be a Christian to ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" You just have to be obnoxious. And that’s as ecumenical as buggery.
And Tony Abbott’s performance in this event is such a clear demonstration of the direct causal connection between devotion to Christ and innate moral decency. See how he so skilfully, yet tactfully, noted that our media classification system "had failed to address rising concerns that children were growing up too fast".
Now isn’t that refreshing? To hear a political leader actually acknowledge the terrifying truth that our children are growing up too fast? And to promise action on it? After all, it’s exactly this kind of unsettling temporal anomaly we need elected officials to act on for us. It’s a matter of urgency that we discover just why our children are growing up too fast, and whether there are any pharmaceutical or surgical means of retarding such hyper-growth. This country will never advance if this sinister trend continues and bit by bit we move toward a future of six-foot-tall three-year-olds and frail, senile teenagers.
On the other hand, Kevin Rudd disappointingly failed to "detail the Government’s response to a recent review of child sexualisation", which does make one wonder just what the Government has to hide? Was its response something to be ashamed of? In response to child sexualisation, did the Government blurt out "Phwoar!" and then shamefacedly try to cover it up? Surely the people have a right to know! And by "the people" of course I mean "Seventh Day Adventist Church general secretary Pastor Ken Vogel", who was exemplary in his disappointment at Rudd’s performance.
It’s a bit of a letdown, Mr Rudd. What happened to your election promise to govern for ALL church general secretaries? What about your commitment that under your government, no Seventh Day Adventist would be worse off, or mildly aggravated? Just another broken promise I guess, to throw on the pile alongside your pledge not to electrocute people for your own personal pleasure, and your vow to end the relentless persecution of mining billionaires. Pastor Ken Vogel is entitled to feel disappointed and betrayed.
However, at least Kevin Rudd IS a Christian, and all Christians know they’re not supposed to be perfect. I mean, they don’t like it to get around, but in private, among themselves, they have a quiet giggle about how imperfect they are.
And as a Christian, Rudd can be depended upon to act in a vaguely Christian manner. Not like Bob "Let’s ban electricity and give koalas the vote" Brown, leader of the Greens, a party so detached from Christian values it might as well be Hezbollah. Can you see Bob Brown asking "What would Jesus do?" What would Marx do, sure. What would Baader-Meinhof do, maybe. But never Jesus. Jesus would be a bit too un-hip for Brown and his cohorts, Sarah "Legs Eleven" Hanson-Young and Christine "Death to Farmers" Milne. Can’t see them ever ruling out the legalisation of gay marriage. They’re more likely to make it compulsory. Can’t see them paying tribute to the contribution of churches to Australian society. Put a Green in a church and he’ll most likely spit on the crucifix, feel up the choirgirls, and bore everyone to death by acknowledging the traditional owners — who, I might add, he will not consider to be God.
Whereas Rudd and Abbott are solid God-fearing citizens who recognise the value of moral guidance in today’s confusing, troubled, Wi-Fi-capable world. They support the school chaplains programme, for instance, no doubt recognising that if children ARE growing up too fast, it’s probably because they have no spiritual education. I know when I was a lad, bewildered by the emotions and frustrations surging through me, I would have loved nothing more than for a kindly middle-aged person to sit me down and read me a few bible verses. We all would have. Over 80 per cent of current drug addicts nominate "lack of access to a chaplain" as the primary reason for their current lifestyle, as do 76 per cent of Picture magazine centrefolds.
And Christians care about these things. They don’t want to see kids end up on the scrapheap. They don’t want to see a nation lose its way. They don’t want to see our wide brown land overrun with godless moral vacuums. They don’t want to see Jesus neglected and forgotten, they way we have Weary Dunlop, Albert Jacka, and Jason Donovan.
That’s why in the upcoming election, we really can’t lose. No matter who we vote for, we get a Christian politician (oh yes, Abbott says he’s a "Christian in politics" not a Christian politician, but that’s splitting hairs, like when Malcolm Fraser said he was a "bore in politics, not a boring politician", or when Mark Latham said he was a "left-winger in politics, not a homicidal maniac"). No matter which way we jump, we end up in a big fat puddle of niceness. Labor, Liberal, it makes no real difference; either way we’ll be putting Jesus in the Lodge.
So what would Jesus do? He’d relax, folks. Because he knows this country’s in safe hands.
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