Category Archives: Politics
Yesterday I was privileged enough to have an article of mine appear on the ABC Religion and Ethics website.
The article is entitled Budgetary nihilism: Deferring foreign aid signals a distorted moral vision. It discusses the recent budgetary decision to defer Australia’s foreign aid commitments under the Millennium Development Goals to 2017–18.
[In this decision to defer our foreign aid commitments] there is, it seems to me, no clearer indication of the nihilism that now permeates politics, for what other than political nihilism could account for the moral obstinacy of diverting foreign aid to help cover a perceived budgetary shortfall? The obscenity of this decision is only compounded when one realises that this shortfall is itself a product of the irrational rhetoric and shameless opportunism of political parties scrambling to annihilate one another and appease a shrill and self-interested minority.
On top of all this, there is the inescapable irony that Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently assumed the role of co-chair of the UN Millennium Development Goal Advocacy Group, charged with “building political will, rallying additional support, and spurring collective action to achieve the [Millenium Development Goals] by 2015.” It is unclear how a leader of our country can do this with any integrity or credibility, given the immorality of one of the world’s most prosperous countries diverting promised money away from programs for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The piece goes on to discuss an approach to the underlying ethics of foreign aid, particularly from a Christian perspective.
The article was also discussed on ABC’s Radio National Drive program (in which I am referred to as a “fiery … obscure PhD student”, which made me laugh).
The article on ABC R&E is largely an updated version of my essay from this time last year (also in response to aid deferrals in the budget) entitled Foreign aid and moral vision.
Feature image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/linkableblob/4689470/data/swan-gears-up-for-budget-data.jpg
Small image: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201305/r1115368_13599551.jpg
I’ve been mistakenly called a “liberal” Christian many times (I imagine many of my readers have had this same experience, rightly or wrongly).
One particular experience stands out for me. I remember several years ago visiting a sick friend. I had just attended a conference, and I was sharing my experience, lamenting the singular focus of this particular conference on “church growth”. My friend sought to correct my frustration – “Church growth is great,” he said, “because it means less people are going to Hell.”
No doubt this reasoning is common in Western Protestantism. I responded with a polite understatement: “Well, I think it’s a bit more complex than that.”
The retort came quickly – “Oh, but you’re a liberal.” In other words I am apparently a liberal Christian.
Interesting. So easy to say – “you are a liberal!” This of course begs the question – what exactly is a liberal Christian? Read the rest of this entry
I was a slave
…..toiling under the gaze of the empire.
And I was heard by a liberator
through the waters,
through the chaos.
I was a wanderer
…..toiling under the gaze of the nations.
And I was guided by smoke and fire
through the waters
through the homelessness.
I was an exile
…..toiling under the gaze of the empire.
And I was found by a baptiser
through the waters
through the resurrection.
I am a stranger
…..toiling under the gaze of the economy.
And I was found by heaven
through the waters
through death itself.
I am unChristian
Dedicated to Anthony John Abbott.
…This leads me to the second reason why we should question that aid is about the wealthy sacrificing their wealth to the poor: the assumption that aid is about charity and generosity. When such intentions, however virtuous and commendable, become the sole moral lens through which foreign aid is viewed, the criticism that aid is really a form of the “White Saviour Complex” can become all too accurate. The truth is that aid is not primarily about generosity – it is about reparation.
In this construal, the “White Saviour Complex” is in fact a “White Sinner Complex,” and it is not inappropriate that we should suffer from it. In truth, the way each of us lives is in some way connected to a global economy that exploits someone on the other end of the production chain. As Thomas Pogge has written:
“affluent countries, partly through the global institutional order they impose, bear a great causal and moral responsibility for the massive global persistence of severe poverty. Citizens of these countries thus have not merely a positive duty to assist innocent persons mired in life-threatening poverty, but also a more stringent negative duty to work politically and personally toward ceasing, or compensating for, their contribution to this ongoing catastrophe.”
That every major world religion ascribes in some way to the ethic of “love your neighbour as yourself” should lead us to deep moral reflection: Who is my neighbour in such a globalised world?
You can read the rest here.
Is it problematic that it is so often impossible to distinguish the social visions of most Christians from their political party of choice?
Over the weekend I went on retreat to heaven (i.e. Cudgee) with friends from Melbourne. One of the things that we discussed at a number of points was the story of Jesus’ wilderness temptation in Matthew 4.
In this story we see Jesus, the one who was sent to change everything, being offered the apparent means to enact such change and solve many of the world’s problems – material possessions, religious power and political power. Rather than accepting such earthly power, Jesus rejects it – it is simply not the way of the kingdom of God.
Jesus instead chose a different way, a way in which people were invited into the life of God in the world, not coerced by power. This Way was not grasped by those in power, and this incomprehension continues today.
Christians are called to continue this mission, one of embodying rather than enforcing, of inviting rather than inciting, of compassion rather than control. It is the way of love.
What does this Way embodied by Christ mean for Christian engagement with modern politics, with the centre of power? Read the rest of this entry
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they senttheir disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)
Recently I posted about the above passage, asking people to contribute their thoughts. From that attempt I gather that people are more comfortable responding to a positive contribution than to an open-ended invitation; in this post I will attempt to oblige this preference.
As I said in my original post, the way we interpret the above passage and its parallels says a lot about our methods of reading the Bible and our understanding of the connection between the Church and civil powers, or alternatively between discipleship and citizenship.
The standard way Evangelicals read this passage, at least in my experience, is that Jesus is teaching people to pay taxes to Caesar, and thus to submit to authorities, but give themselves to God. Implicit in this reading is an assumption about the distinction between civil life and religion. This reading, very often taken for granted with no further exploration, is often backed up with a reference to Romans 13.
I have written on Romans 13 previously, and I don’t intend to explore it here. I do however intend to go beyond mere assumption in our reading of Matthew 22:15-22 (and parallels) and explore what the text might actually be saying, rather than what our ideological commitments might require. Read the rest of this entry
Following the decimation of the Labor Party in the weekend’s Queensland state election there are a number of seemingly insurmountable issues to be reckoned with.
Not least is the reality that in contemporary Australia we have a problem in national politics – the population is fed up with it!
The blame is often pointed at leadership and there is no doubt that this plays a part in the problem. The latest leadership challenge between Gillard and Rudd was not fought on policy but on personality. The other side of the political spectrum is equally reproachable, mindlessly opposing almost everything that proceeds from the government and failing to provide a policy position on basically anything.
Our national leadership is unimaginative and uninspiring, a sentiment constantly repeated throughout media outlets. There seems to be a shortage of principled thinkers willing to take risks on their convictions. As Malcolm Fraser noted on Monday, the Federal Parliament is “a place … littered with apparatchiks.”
With such uninspiring leadership the population, particularly the young, become disillusioned with the political process. This is perhaps best indicated by the sharp decline in political party membership.
But to argue that all political disillusionment proceeds from uninspiring leadership is shallow, a clawing at what are ultimately symptoms in order to find a cause.
What might then be the cause? There is of course no simple answer, though I have my suspicions. Read the rest of this entry
Wondering what you think of this video, leaked on to YouTube on Friday (Sorry to my non-Australian readers for the Australian political content).
[UPDATE: Due to there being some confusion as to why this video was posted - I am interested in the implications this video has for Australian politics and the related 24-hour news cycle. Why is our media enthralled by a video of a politician swearing when there are far more important things going on in the world, including in Australia's domestic politics? What does it reflect about the climate of domestic politics?]
Depending on your interpretation of different sections of the Bible you might say the different authors push for:
- Submission (the conclusion many people come to when reading Romans 13, for example, or perhaps Ezra-Nehemiah)
- Prophetic critique and nonviolent resistance (as found in much of the prophetic literature or Revelation)
- A middle option
- A blend
But what are we meant to do in our contemporary world as Christians? Should we simply do what we understand early Christians to have done in relation to ruling powers?
That is to say, how do we anticipate God’s transformative kingdom on earth, now, in the midst of a world of ruling powers that very often act contrary to God’s purposes? Read the rest of this entry
While many people have tried to argue that Julia Gillard lied about the carbon tax, I find this argument to be wilfully ignorant of the events of the last twelve months.
Where Gillard has lied, however, is on the issue of asylum seekers. She has previously claimed that the Howard Government’s so-called Pacific Solution was, “costly, unsustainable and wrong as a matter of principle.” Read the rest of this entry