By Brian Morris
Staggeringly, there are more than 45,000 incarnations of Christianity in the world, according to the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity. And they should know!
Every religion has been riven with division, from the time of their own particular deity – or myriad interpretations of a holy text. But in western nations, today, there are essentially two distinct Christian divisions.
Loudest, and most angry, are the Old Testament devotees of fundamentalism. Forensic research, here and here, shows that while small in number they have come to dominate and subvert the New Testament beliefs of Christian “moderates” – those who value tolerance and inclusiveness, in a progressive modern society.
Both in sport and politics – among other institutions – there are maxims which generally state that “disunity is death”. It threatens the viability of the “team”. Christians have something similar – in the Gospel of Mark 3:25 – where Jesus is believed to have said, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
Christianity is certainly a house divided between a hardcore right wing and a sliding scale of moderates and self-styled “cultural Christians.” Census 2021 shows Christianity continues to decline, down to 43.9 per cent; but that figure is artificially high. A true number – closer to 35 per cent – will emerge when the Census finally changes its “loaded” question – “what is the person’s religion?”. Which assumes we all have one!
What mainstream media, and the political classes, refuse to discuss are the many factors which underpin a growing religious threat to progressive social legislation; and even to the roots of parliamentary democracy.
It’s not “conservativism” that seeks to wind back abortion rights for women, or same-sex marriage, or voluntary assisted dying – it’s “religionism”. And it is the resurgence of puritanical fundamentalism (within various Christian denominations) that is subverting the progressive worldview of “enlightened religious moderates.”
Wallpapering over the yawning cracks of these two wildly divergent Christian philosophies has gone on for too long, and all media outlets are culpable in avoiding the core issues. Historically, Australia has lagged America in many social, political and religious trends. To say we’re immune from the latest religiously-motivated attack on secular values – coming from the USA – serves only to aid and abet religious fanaticism.
The evangelically-stacked Supreme Court in America – which overturned Roe vs Wade – has sent shock waves through secular countries around the world. And that incredible decision has had immediate fallout within all Republication US states, which are now enacting laws to limit or criminalise any form of abortion.
Philosopher and ethicist, Leslie Cannold, writes, “pundits who believe losing abortion rights could never occur in Australia show a lack of understanding of our history – and our present.” She clearly identifies the problem.
Religious fundamentalists are emboldened by this decision of the US Supreme Court. In England the anti-abortion group CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education) are providing pro-life “researchers” at no cost to 20 MPs in Westminster. Just one local example, here, is the Edith Lyons List, where South Australian MPs met to “mentor” young people at an anti-abortion event.
Christian soldiers aren’t going away, says the Sydney Morning Herald. The rise of Pentecostalism and its extremist 7 Mountains Mandate is just one of many evangelical organisations committed to rolling back progressive laws on abortion, same-sex marriage, Voluntary Assisted Dying, and anything deemed “secular”.
Labor won the 2022 election by just 2.1 per cent of the two-party preferred vote! The religious right of Scott Morrison’s government is still in parliament. If Albanese and the Teals face further domestic and global upheavals, and fail to deliver, a very fickle public can easily reverse that 2.1 per cent at the next election.
Again, it’s not merely conservative governments, both state and federal, that are the issue. It rests with all Australian parliamentarians who are driven by a religious ethos that they regard as superior to the secular focus of our constitution. It took just 5 US Supreme Court justices to end pro-choice rights for millions of women.
So, why do we hide the religious proclivities of our parliamentarians? Government websites provide ample space for MPs to show their religious affiliations, within the other biographical details that are required. But very few are prepared to be open and honest with the public about how religion will define their vote on progressive social legislation.
Is this information not important to voters? Where is the transparency? Are there now lessons to be learnt from the US states which are currently enacting anti-abortion laws, following the defeat of Roe vs Wade? It’s well worth reading the article by Leslie Cannold.
Prime minister Albanese has established a Code of Conduct for all his ministers, with a ban on “blind trusts” and direct shareholdings. And all parliamentarians must disclose their pecuniary interests. So why not a commitment for all MPs to share their religious beliefs – or non-beliefs – with the voting public?
This is not a “religious test”, which would be contrary to section 116 of the constitution. No, it’s merely demonstrating a level of integrity on an issue which impacts directly on the business of government. And the media, too, need to ask tough questions – the US Supreme Court has made evangelism a political issue!
Abortion is not the sole topic here. Religion impacts directly on a raft of social policy identified by the National Secular Lobby. NSL is an organisation founded to counter the swathe of Christian lobbies whose sole focus is to influence the political process – and particularly with their religious colleagues in various parliaments.
So, are “moderate” Christians concerned – to any degree – by the vehemence of evangelical fervour and their affirmed quest to Christianise Australian society? And that is very clearly the objective of Pentecostalism and its 7 Mountain Mandate – yet another import from the Bible Belt of America.
A recent IPSOS poll showed 78 per cent of Australians want religion to be separated from the business of government. Clearly, within that vast public majority are millions of religious moderates who support progressive social policy – like same-sex marriage, VAD, and the right of women to have full bodily autonomy.
Do “moderates” not believe that militant evangelism is actually subverting Christianity? Is there no concern that such extremism serves only to undermine the inclusiveness and tolerance that they see in the teachings of Jesus? And what are they prepared to do about that?
Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969
6,996 total views, 40 views today