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Religion and politics can agree, but rarely do (part 1)

When did the Christian religion first influence American and Australian politics? Let’s start in the present. Faith got its back up when the now-disgraced Christian President Trump signed an executive order separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Religious organisations of varying denominations spoke out against what they considered a barbaric practice. The Trump administration pursued a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy as a deterrent for immigrants by prosecuting adults who illegally crossed into the country, resulting in systematic family separation. Five hundred and forty-five children’s parents still cannot be found, and it is estimated that about two-thirds had been deported without their kids. So religion does speak its mind when it is confronted with things it considers evil or against God’s laws.

It is easy to prove the historical involvement of religion in politics concerning particular issues. But which presidents or prime ministers have defended the separation of church and state most ardently? Both in Australia and the U.S., our constitutions both explicitly outline the separation of church and state.

John F Kennedy was in danger of being overlooked for the 1960 Presidency because he was a Catholic:

“Protestants questioned whether Kennedy’s Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make important national decisions as President independent of the Church. Kennedy addressed those concerns before a sceptical audience of Protestant clergy.”

He made his now-famous speech about the separation of church and state. But there are also many examples of religion seeking a place in government. They all form part of the Christian or religious right that has its origins in Christianpolitical factions that are strongly socially conservative. Mostly they are United States Christian conservatives who seek to influence politics and public policy with their own particular interpretation of the teachings of Christ. (Note: An opposing view might be that Jesus was the world’s first socialist.)

These Evangelical Christians are an informal coalition with a core of conservativeevangelical Protestants and some Roman Catholics.

The notion that a few privileged individuals can own the vast majority of a countries wealth and the remainder own little is on any level unsustainable, politically, economically or morally.

In Australia, the Christian right was unheard of until recent times when conservative Evangelical Christians took control of both church doctrine (the gospel of wealth) and political Liberal ideology moved to the far right (a reluctance for change). With an Evangelical Prime Minister who has similar religious and political philosophies as former U.S. president Donald Trump, Australia began to shift in both language and style under the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott.

The Christian right has influenced politics since the 1940s but has been particularly powerful since the 1970s.

Do you shape the truth for the sake of a good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there is always a pain in truth, but there is no harm in it.

Although Christian rights are most commonly associated with politics in the United States, similar Christian conservative groups can be found in other Christian-majority nations’ political cultures. It promotes its teachings on social issues such as:

school prayer, intelligent design, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, temperance, euthanasia, contraception, Christian nationalism, Sunday Sabbatarianism, sex education, abortion, and pornography.”

The right-wing Evangelical churches promote these issues in and outside the church. Most members adhere to these teachings, but those raised in a modern pluralist society feel conflicted between church and state.

The problem for the Australian Christian is this question: Is it a good thing to be associated with a political party who only has the interest of those who ‘have’ at the centre of its ideology or should it re-examine Biblical teaching in light of a rapidly changing society and technological change and reach out to the ‘have nots’?

Scott Morrison started his church life in the Uniting Church and was greatly influenced by the Reverend Ray Green. Brian Houston of the evangelical mega-church Hillsong (Assembly of God) and Leigh Coleman left a lasting impression on him. All three got a mention in Morrison’s inaugural speech to the Australian parliament.

Houston was criticised by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for failing to report sexual abuse by his father. In other words, he broke a law of the state. Mind you; he wasn’t alone in his sin.

Morrison’s flippantly opportunistic approach to programs run by the Government like Robodebt, Sports Rorts, and Aged Care homes suggest corruption on a grand level.

His “dear friend” and fundraiser Leigh Coleman somehow raised $43 million from the Morrison government for programs to help Indigenous folk, but somehow most of it seemed to go in salaries.

Leigh Coleman, formerly of Hillsong, has allegations of fraud and bribery against him. (Note: Allegations, not charges.)

The $43 million in contracts from the Defence Department to a company he is linked to (in so much as he founded and managed it) “while being a registered charity was set up to address Indigenous unemployment and disadvantage.”

That’s $43 million of our money, and it reeks of suspicion. And this man is a friend of the Prime Minister, and just as importantly, a friend of Pastor Houston.

A bit sus, cynical, or wouldn’t pass the pub test are few expressions Australians would use to describe these transactions. So much so that it has the whiff of corruption about it. These are the sorts of things that can happen when religion gets to close to government.

Even more suss when one looks closer at this recent piece from The Guardian, and you see that the org upon which such legion of government largesse is bestowed, ServeGate Australia, has all the hallmarks of a front, a tax dodge, a money-laundering operation

 

In part 2: How the merger progressed to make a threesome with the industrialists and their wealth.

My thought for the day

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only areas that I can think of where Science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.

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9 comments

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  1. Uta Hannemann

    There is a lot in this blog to ponder, John. I intend to read it carefully! Thank you for publishing. 🙂

  2. wam

    In my youth it was important to discover ‘what you were’ in english speaking society and a catholic/protestant union was a mixed marriage. Indeed in our exams it was rumoured the catholics had a secret message informing the marker that it was written with god. Irish protestants used to sprinkle salt, if a catholic came to their home, then sweep it out. The rationale being catholics are too superstitious.
    It was ironic that Ming of the liberal party wouldn’t have a mick in the party but was kept in office by the catholic DLP. Remember John Kelly who, in feb 2017 wrote: “At one point when Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister there was only one Catholic Liberal member in the House of Representatives. By the time Tony Abbott became the first Catholic Liberal Party Prime Minister, nearly 50% of his cabinet was Catholic” Now the cabinet has ‘hillsingers’ in ample supply and these are unlikely to agree with Albert Einstein who believed that “science without religion was lame, and religion without science was blind”. The questioning of a rugby players religious belief could be a precedent to questioning the beliefs of politicians. In the meantime, lord, keep fit and keep watching the power of prayer in scummo’s politics and the pragmatic back up with cold hard cash in the right spots.

  3. Terence Mills

    The thing is, Donald J Trump doesn’t have a religious bone in his body. He uses religion as with everything else, for self promotion.

    Law enforcement officers used tear gas and other riot control tactics to forcefully clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square and surrounding streets, creating a path for President Donald Trump and senior administration officials to walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, this was a photo opportunity. Trump held up a Bible as a prop and posed in front of Ashburton House (the church’s parish house).

    This was a carefully stage managed piece of theatre and aimed at a somewhat gullible sector of the American community : he didn’t go into the church – he later played golf !

  4. DrakeN

    “When did the Christian religion first influence American and Australian politics?”
    The whole of the legislations of the UK, USofA and Australia, along with much of the rest of the world, have been heavily influenced by religions.
    A brief look into the histories of religions will leave you in no doubt about that.
    Early years indoctrination, both by instruction and osmosis, ensures that their lies and myths continue to affect our lives – often entirely subconsciously.
    Something of which we all, individually, need to be aware.

  5. paul walter

    Off topic a bit, but will recall the ROBODEBT antic as anti- Christian, as with so much of social and human rights approaches taken by the government.. All that brutality for a few million bucks they (the government) weren’t entitled to anyway?

    If they had wanted to harvest many more $’s why not postpone tax cuts for the rich and tax-dodging corporations?

    Let alone this platinum mine level wealth down the drain: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/not-a-straight-shooter-dod-review-cites-fleet-of-faults-in-f-35-program/ The flightless lemons, plus the yellow submarines; a quarter of a $trillion and counting from what I can make out, not a whimper from government or MSM ?!

    What numbers would we get if we combined defence procurement waste (corruption?) with tax dodging (also corruption involved?).

    Pull the other one, slimeballs!!

  6. Andrew Smith

    Good read, and for added context, the reemergence of Conservative and/or evangelical Christianity in time for Reagan in the US GOP (influences the LNP) was very strategic e.g. abortion and also masked deep seated prejudice, while used by libertarians to form a voter coalition (allowing policies to pass), from Politico in ‘The Real Origins of the Religious Right’:

    ‘In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich*, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism’

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

    Weyrich used evangelical Jerry Fallwell who had not previously made such of an issue about abortion to form the ‘Moral Majority’. Also relevant and influential was Weyrich himself whose role was to ‘litter the world with right wing think tanks’ cofounding Abbott’s favourite Heritage Foundation, and the ‘bill mill’ ALEC; both influenced by KochNetworks like the the Oz end inc. IPA, CIS etc. in AtlasNetwork.

    Nowadays the world is being ‘littered’ with right wing news tv channels…. the new temples of preachers…..

  7. Zathras

    The use of abortion was indeed a deliberate strategy created by evangelicals in particular to establish a united political front because Creationism and Intelligent Design had been ineffective. Even stalwarts like Billy Graham considered themselves “pro-choice”. Nowadays (when they’re not obsessed with their own persecution and martyrdom) Christians use the Bible like a ventroloquist’s dummy to justify their personal prejudices to a national audience.

    US sites like rightwingwatch.org should be a warning about what will inevitably be coming our way and how zealots drive both political and social policies from within Governments and who is yanking their chain.

  8. B Sullivan

    “A bit sus, cynical, or wouldn’t pass the pub test are few expressions Australians would use to describe these transactions.”

    It is true that cynical is one of the expressions Australians would use, but it is completely inappropriate. Cynical is supposed to express an austere self-denial of possessions, not rampant indulgence in self-serving accumulation of wealth, which is what you are referring to in your article.

    The derogatory definitions that are universally attributed to the word even in respected dictionaries are a real-life example of Orwellian Newspeak which purpose is to deprive us of our vocabulary of dissent. You expect the word cynical to express the very opposite of what it actually means and by using it neglect to actually express what you really mean to say. You aren’t expressing your dissent, you are hiding it with an inappropriate expression that everyone is expected to assume means “un-good”.

    The people and their ideology that you discuss in your article are not cynical. You could describe Buddha or Jesus or Francis of Assisi as cynical or anyone else who rejects the self-serving pursuit of material wealth, but not these greedy, rapacious, shamelessly self-interested, manipulative, hypocritical opportunists.

  9. Mark Shields

    Particularly the newer evangelical isolationist groups are the worst because they endorse greed, individualist-ignorance and subtle bigotry towards non-members. They are inherently cults where common sense, rational intellect, objectivity and genuine empathy are missing and therefore rejected.

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