Thursday, 17 May 2007

We're in the press


From the Hawkesbury Gazette 16 May 2007

Christian voice from right-wing wilderness
Gail Knox

FORMER Hawkesbury resident Emma Whale has joined forces with fellow Christian John Chisholm to help battle the right-wing hijacking of the Christian voice in the lead-up to the Federal Election.

A Blue Mountains resident and mother-of two, Mrs Whale and Mr Chisholm last week launched the Progression: Christians for Social Justice lobby group, and urged anyone, Christian or not, to log on and find out more about their campaign for a wider Christian voice to be heard.
"We feel there are so many Christians not only not represented, but actually misrepresented by conservative Christian lobby groups and conservative Christian political parties," Mrs Whale said. "We also believe the Gospel is misrepresented and Christianity is misrepresented to mainstream Australia... The impression people have is that if you say you're a Christian, then you must be conservative.
"There are so many Christians who don't think like that, but they have don't have a voice. Their voice is drowned out by the monologue of the religious right. "That's all anyone hears. "The conservative groups have hijacked the Christian voice."
Mrs Whale said conservative groups had reduced Christianity to a "very narrowly defined set of moral values". "We're concerned there is an over-emphasis on sexual issues," she said. "Jesus spoke out again and again about oppression, about the poor and social justice issues. He never mentioned homosexuality and abortion. "If you've got a real conviction on those issues, that's fine, but they shouldn't be the defining issues (for Christians). "We've got people in our group who are morally conservative, but they don't believe it's their right to impose their opinion on others."
Mrs Whale said protecting the environment was also a moral and ethical issue. She said she realised the Australian Christian Lobby group was opposed to homosexual marriage. "But why should we prevent homosexuals having the same civil rights as other people?" she asked. "It's not our duty to legislate for other people's morality. "Homosexual couples don't have access to a lot of legal rights. How can Christians be in favour of marginalising groups is beyond me." Mrs Whale said her new group was also "very concerned" about Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile's attitudes on a range of issues, particularly towards Muslims. "We worry Christian politics is polarising people.
How can Christians be in favour of marginalising people, of creating dissension and division in society? "That's not in keeping with Christ's message of 'love your neighbour as yourself'. "It's all based on fear – fear of homosexuals, fear of Muslims, fear of the unknown." Mrs Whale said being a Christian was "essentially about a change of heart". "It's about living life in as loving and peaceful way as you can. Marginalising people is doing violence to them. "You can't legislate righteousness. "
Mrs Whale said the Australian Christian Lobby had not spoken out against "hard right fanaticism", such as Mr Nile's position. "And Family First always run an anti-Green campaign, so it's as if you can't vote Green and be a Christian at the same time. "But a lot of Greens' policies are shaped by social justice concerns."
Mrs Whale said such a black-and-white approach polarised people. "People with left leanings are immediately turned off Christianity. "They think they would have to be like Fred Nile. It's such a travesty. It's locking people out of Christianity. "Our faith informs what we do, but anybody passionate about social justice issues can join our non-denominational group. "This will be an exciting journey. Please join us."

23 comments:

The Rev said...

amen sister

rev

Emma said...

Hey rev!

thanks

rajane said...

well done emma. spoken boldly and with conviction.

Marcus Claxton said...

I am concerned that Progression sees itself in a battle against "right-wing" Christians. This implies that there is a belief that one side is right and the other is wrong! While I acknowledge that there are differences in opinion on a number of issues there should be a fundamental set of beliefs that are common to all Christians. While we continue openly bickering among ourselves, our impact on our country and our world will be limited regardless of our political, moral or ethical leanings. If you see deficiencies in the lobbying of the ACL and the like, then work hard filling the gap or gaps that they leave. It is pointless to continually point out where they have got it wrong when all this serves to do is to promote disunity and to demonstrate to the non Christian world that we are a house divided. You have just had an enormous opportunity of air time in the paper and you spent that time tearing down the work of other Christians instead of putting forward your own ideals and ideas and what you will be lobbying for. After reading it I have no better understanding of what Social Justice issues you will be fighting for then before I read it. This doesn't make sense. The first entry you have in the media and you use it in the way that you have, I don’t really understand the benefit in that? I can see many cynical non Christians reading through it and shaking their heads saying something like "typical Christians always arguing among themselves". I am all for expressions of differing opinions but why can't Progression be complementary with the likes of the ACL rather than in contention. If you are truly concerned that the social justice voice is not being heard, then speak up and loud on the social justice issues. Prove to the world that your voice is one that needs to be heard. You'll never do this if you spend all your time trying to tear down other Christians who are only trying to do what they feel is best (even though you don't fully agree with the way they are doing it). I am a right leaning Christian but I do not for one minute feel that I am in any way in a "Battle" with those Christians who lean further to the left. In fact I do not consider that I am in any sort of battle with any Christians at all!! I'm sure that everyone can find a way to work together to further the cause of Christ can't we? It certainly comes across in this article that you have an “us and them” mentality instead of a we. Surely if we all have the common foundation of Christ then our differing leanings are not mutually exclusive??

ADHD Librarian said...

Marcus,
thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog. Lots of good thoughts for us in the way we present ourselves but I hope I can clarify a few things for you.
Firstly yes Emma and I are both on the left politically which may have been part of our inspiration for an alternative voice. However we’re not hoping to shout down the right, nor do we see ourselves as in battle with right wing Christians. It is more that we are battling the perception that all Christianity is right wing. Indeed, if I can quote myself from elsewhere on the blog
"we're in favour of debate and we'd rather have honest and open dissent amongst Christians than live in a fairy land where we pretend all Christians agree on everything. Politically we're hoping to be neither left nor right, but as the right is currently carrying the Christian debate, you might find us favouring the left while we try and find that balance"
You would agree I take it, that the majority of Christian voices in the Australian media, especially political voices, are right wing?

There is a lot in what you wrote, so lets call this part one of my reply while I try and digest the rest,
John

Emma said...

Hey Marcus, thanks for your comments. I would like to respond and also clarify our position on some things. You stated that we see ourselves in a battle with "right-wing" Christians and that "bickering amongst ourselves" will not lead to anyone making a difference. I have to disagree there. You say you are yourself a right-leaning Christian so maybe you don't see the damage the championing of right-wing causes has done to the church ( and you and I personally have always managed to see past our differences for the sake of the faith, which I am grateful for). As you know, I am and always have had "minority views" within the church. I have been told repeatedly tht I am wrong, that I need to be quiet and keep my opinions to myself. I have met so many people who want nothing to do with Christianity because they cannot stand Fred Nile who says Christianity is all about vilifying Muslims, marching against homosexuals and keeping them out of military service, locking women and children refugees up in mandatory detention...and the list goes on. We are all entitled to our views, and I believe Christians can have a range of views on many topics, as you have suggested. But I am tired of my views being drowned out by the Religious Right. I am tired of being quiet out of a misguided sense of "unity" and trying to say to wonderful, thinking intellectual people "Oh, not you don't understand, not all Christians are like George Bush, Fred Nile and Jerry Falwell." If hard-right fanatical Christians are going to engage in politics and give the impression that their view is the "real" Christian voice, then they should expect opposition. If Fred Nile had been saying for the last 20 years, "you know, this is my view, not the view of all Christians" then I wouldn't feel the need to challenge that. But he has, and plenty of us are sick of it. Why has no one from the "right leaning camp" challenged him for causing disunity?

The funny thing is that I have heard from quite a few people who had "lost" their faith...and they were saying things to me like, "thank you, thanks for presenting a different view, I feel I can embrace my faith again". So actually I see Progression as a way of welcoming people back to the fold, who have been pushed out by voicing views that are contrary to the majority voice. While churches continue to read Fred Nile petitions against Muslims out loud in church then I think I have an important job in voicing dissent.

You also said we have no idea what social justice issues we will be fighting for...firstly, I suggest you get the newsletter and get on the mailing list - and you'll find out pretty soon! Also we are very new and are listening to our members, something the ACL does not do. They are clear on their website that members may not always agree but need to be "on board" anyway. I do not agree with some of their issues and as stated will be given no opportunity for input, so I don't feel joining ACL is the way to go. Besides, they are admittedly conservative, and we are seeking to bring a balance. That is why the "air time" I was given I used to promote the group and outline how we are different from other Christian groups. I think we disagree profoundly over what reaches non-Christians - I do not think blind adherence to views to which we don't agree does the trick. I think intelligent debate goes a lot further than we think it does, and most of the feedback I have had reflects this. How do you think slavery ended, how do you think black people were allowed into churches? It happened because a minority of people within the church said, "enough, we don't agree", even while the majority of the church disagreed. If we never debated anything to portect "unity", we'd be stuck back in the Spanish Inquisition and Martin Luther would never have started the Reformation. That said, something we do need to be mindful of is always speaking truth in a spirit of love.

And I completely agree that when we have the common foundation of Christ our different leanings are not mutually exclusive - I wonder why then I have been made to feel over and over agian that they were.

You'll be interested to know Nathan Zamprogno has agreed to write some stuff for us so we can have some really good debates on the blog. I hope you can stick around and join in.
em

Marcus Claxton said...

No, no no no. You misunderstood what I was saying....

"You also said we have no idea what social justice issues we will be fighting for"

This is not what I said. I said that I (emphasis on I) don't understand from reading your article what you are standing for. You may have a clear understanding but it was not conveyed in the article. I just have a bit of a problem when anyone spends time pointing the finger at others and not as much time positively and constructively outlining their own methods and ideas. Sure, voice your opinion that others aren't doing a good enough job but don't make that the focus. Make your ideas and ideals and what you are trying to achieve the focus. I just thought that your first outing in the media might be a good opportunity to outline the social justice issues that you intend to fight for. To inspire people with a direction to follow instead of simply pointing out what is currently being done wrong. Lead the way.

I have no problem with what you guys are trying to achieve here, in fact I think on the whole it has the potential to be fantastic opportunity.

Please don't think I am in any way telling anyone to be quiet. That is not my intention. This would go against some of the things that I hold at the core of what I believe freedom of thought, freedom of speech and question what you are told! In fact I am saying speak up and speak loud. But in doing that I don't believe that you need to belittle others who are simply trying their best to do what they think is right.

Protecting unity within the church should not preclude debate. I am all for debate. BUT. I believe that the debate must at all times be positive and constructive. Whenever it turns to finger pointing and accusations then we make ourselves no better than people who don't know the love of Christ. Whatever is done here must have the cause of Christ at it's core or it is missing the mark. That goes for the ACL as well and any other groups or people etc.

I will most definitely be sticking around and joining in.

Emma said...

Hi Marcus, thanks for clarifying your position. I must confess I am confused on a few things that you said:"While we continue openly bickering among ourselves, our impact on our country and our world will be limited" but then later say we should engage in debate. You say "Whenever it turns to finger pointing and accusations then we make ourselves no better than people who don't know the love of Christ" and imply that's what my interview in the paper was doing. Again I disagree. Never once did I say anything against tne ACL other than to say I didn't agree with their policy on homosexual unions and I think they should speak out against the hard-right element in Christianity if they're going to accuse Muslims of not speaking out against the hard-right of their own religion (see my post on Jim Wallace on the ABC). I just sometimes think it's a little too easy to say to someone "you're finger pointing, you're bickering, you're not displaying unity" when actually we're just uncomfortable with what's being said. I never said Fred Nile wasn't a Christian, and yet I got a lovely email from the Fred Nile camp accusing me of not being a Christian after the article came out. To me, that's pointless "finger pointing".

As John said, the impression much of the public have of Christians is right wing. Great for you guys who are, but it kinda sucks for the rest of us. That's what I have sought to make clear, and I think the article did it perfectly. I don't think anyone is in any doubt over where we stand, and the only complaints I have had are from right-wingers upset about either me not being a Christian or not displaying "unity" and again I am a bit confused over what that means. If you really read what I have said I never attack Fred Nile personally, I attack his views. I believe his brand of politics locks people out from knowing Jesus, I believe it polarises people - and what response do we have? We can either put up with it or do something about it. For me, Progression is doing something about it, it's giving a voice to those whoi have had no voice in the land that is Christian politics.

Let me say something from my own experience too...I spent years trying to protect unity, trying to keep my opinions to myself, trying to submit in leadership to Christians who I virtually disagreed with everything they said. I had Fred Nile, Family First shoved down my throat and it wasn't just me, it was lots of people in lots of different churches. It got to the point where I almost didn't want to admit to being a Christian anymore! Certainly not around my
"lefty" friends with whom I agreed with more than with my Christian freinds and leaders. And that would have been fine, but I was was constantly having right-wing politics throwin up in my face. I honestly believe if churches had done a better job of embracing people of all political persuasions, if Christian politicians like Fred Nile hadn't hijacked the Christian voice for so long witbout admitting there's another side to things, maybe we wouldn't have a need for groups like Progression. But they did, they have, and we do.

Progression does need to make sure it's not just the "negative" side of things, like the Opposition in a democracy. Unfortunately, that's often the position groups like us find ourselves in, simply beacuse we are not the majority view, and we are trying to point out inconsistencies and show a different side of things.

Glad to hear you'll be around, I've enojuyed the debate and hopefully others will be able to find something useful in what's being said here,
em

Marcus Claxton said...

OK. I think I'm getting a clearer picture. So it seems to me the main points of contention are; that not all Christians think the same about many things and that the current vocal lobby groups may not be representing the veiws of all Christians; and to what extent should Christians fight for their views to be implemented in society knowing that not all people share those same convictions?

On first reading the article it took me by surprise as I felt a bit condemned since it is telling me that because I lean to the right I have in some way misrepresented the gospel. I personally do not believe this to be this case.

I guess what I'm trying to get across is that I believe that Fred Nile, ACL and the like are all doing a good job for the most part. Do they always get it 100% right. Certainly not, but then do any of us always get it right? It worries me that men like Fred Nile are depicted in such a poor light when they really are standing up for what they believe the bible to be saying. I hear what you are saying about them claiming the Christian voice but in a political sense it could be argued that this is warranted. I would say that a majority of Christians in our country do in fact support what Fred Nile stands for. That is not to say that this is right in all circumstances, and certainly is not to say that it is the only way a Christian may think but rightly or wrongly it seems to be the majority. If this is the case, then surely there should be acknowledgment of the good work that they are doing (surely not all of it is bad) and then stand up and say but here is an alternative viewpoint and this is why it is needed?

The concept of people being turned off Christianity by the likes of Fred Nile interests me because I have never met a single person who has said that sort of thing to me. This could mean one of two things, either I don't get out much or that it is not the single most significant factor in why people don't become Christians. I think it's more likely the later. I would consider that I mix with a broad cross section of people from right across the political spectrum but none of them have sited that this is a reason not to follow Christ. Granted it may be one factor but I don't know just how big a factor it is.

I have too much to think about now....

Emma said...

Hi, just a couple of things. Firstly, if you as a right leaning felt condemned by the article, then I am sorry, that was not the intent. The other thing too is that I do't think we can lump Fred Nile and the ACL on one boat, and I was careful not to do this in the article.

I never once felt you and your right-leaning viewd misrepresented the gospel. I do feel that people like Fred Nile have misrepresented it. I can only speak from my point of view here. One look at the "Australian values checklist" is enough to have me saying, "huh?" Apparently Christians should be in favour of school vouchers and opening parliament in prayer?? As the most important issues? I don't care what you think on those topics, but can we at least agree that Jesus never went on about the Romans opening their government with prayer or that schools should be Christian. What he did talk about was the poor and oppressed, the marginalised. Yet The Christian Democrats support mandatory detention. They are against gays and women in the military (again I can't understand that one)and they win votes in the senate by claiming the Greens are "anti-Christian". This is what really bugs me, because how is this the gospel? To me this does misrepresent the gospel, it's about legislating our brand of morality on other people whether they like it or believe it or not. We might have strong moral opinions, I think we should, but when we say vilifying Muslims and telling people how to conduct their private lives is is Christianity, then I think we have a big problem. Christianity is primarily about loving God and loving others. I think Fred Nile has done some good things, but I think most of what the Christian Democrats have done has been to portray Christianity in a negative light, and make people thnk, "I have to believe in those things, I have to be conservative to be a Christian".

This brings me to my next point...about you not meeting people who are turned off by Fred Nile. No offence...but I think you might have been right the first time! The Hawkesbury is one of the most conservative places around. The church you go to, ditto. I'm not sure about your work environment...but I'm guessing there aren't too many long-haired hippes around! You and I were very middle-class in our upbringing.

The people I have net who have been turned off by the CDP are people I have met through family (some of whom are gay) through my dealings with Labor and Green parties through work, at Uni...and most of this happened once I got away from the Hawkesbury!

Maybe the majority of Christians agree with Fred Nile, maybe they don't. But there are certainly plenty out there who want a different voice.

Ash said...

Hi Marcus,

On reading your posts in this blog, it seems to me that you misunderstand the reasons for Progression being created. It was born out of the need for a left wing Christian alternative to the hijacking of the Christian voice in Australia by the right wing ACL and CDP. The ACL purports to be an apolitical non-partisan lobby group. You and I have both heard Jim Wallace speaking publicly on this very point. And, of course, expecting Jim Wallace to be an honourable man, I did not presume to believe otherwise. However, the following is an excerpt from an ACL newsletter:
“'We certainly aren't saying vote for the Libs or Nationals, as we don't tell people who to vote for, however it is hard to go past the Libs and Nationals on family policy issues in WA.' (ACL Newsletter, Oct. 2003, 6)
So where is their apolitical, non-partisan policy? Again, purporting to be a non-partisan lobby group Jim Wallace inducted on to the NSW board of the ACL a right-wing Senior Pastor of an AOG church who stood for the Senate at the previous Federal election from the Family First party in NSW? In case you missed it, the Family First is proudly right-wing with all its preferences flowing to the Federal Coalition at the last Federal Election. Apolitical? Non-partisan? You must be joking? The rhetoric of the ACL does not align with the actual events that have occurred. Therefore, I must conclude that the ACL is a particularly hypocritical in its position in respect to what it says and what is actually does. So how can anyone place any credence in such a lobby group? Where are the moderates on the ACL Board. Where are the left-wing Christians on the Board? The answer is there are none. I would have more respect for the ACL if they came straight out stating they are unapologetically a right-wing Christian lobby group instead of the hypocritical cant they currently spout. The ACL does not appear to have the courage of it’s own convictions. You say if you see deficiencies in the ACL then work hard filling the gaps that they leave. This is precisely what Progression is doing, filling in the gaps for a hypocritical lobby group that has lost it’s relevance (in my opinion) to many left-wing Christians. The ACL may still be relevant to the right-wing Christians that follow it blindly; determinedly seeing the mote in other Christian’ s eyes but totally ignoring the beam in their own. I would also ask you to read what Jesus had to say about hypocrites in Matt 23.

You also state that the CDP and what they stand for is supported by a majority of Christians in Australia. I estimate that about 80% of Australians call themselves Christians. Let’s look at the last NSW State Election in March 2007. Approx 4.4M people voted in this election. In the Legislative Assembly, the CDP received 2.7% of the votes cast. In the Legislative Council, the figure was 4%. I’ll let you do the math, but I can assure you that a majority of Christians did not vote for the CDP. I can also assure you from my own experience in the many organisations that I have worked for, the CDP fronted by Fred Nile turns off many more people than it embraces.

You also indicate that you have no better understanding of the Social Justice issues Progression is fighting for. A cursory glance at any newspaper in the last twelve months would have provided you with a great deal of information about Social Justice issues. Here are a few:
1. Immigration Detention Centres in Australia.
For the first time in Australian history, concentration camps complete with razor wire fences and armed guards were set up to detain indefinitely the men, women and children refugees who cam to Australia seeking a better life. The treatment of refugees contravene two UN refugee conventions: The principle instrument for the international protection of refugees is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees ('the Refugee Convention') and the 1967 amendment entitled the Protocol Relating to Refugees. Australia ratified the Refugee Convention on 22 January 1954 and the Protocol on 13 December 1973. While Australia remains a signatory to these instruments, it is bound by their provisions particularly Article 1A(2) and Article 1F.

So why are people,, including children, behind razor wire in concentration camps in Australia? What is the ACL’s position on refugees forced to live in these camps, both onshore and offshore for years? What is the CDP’s position? Strangely enough, the AOG movement has been markedly silent on this issue.

2. David Hicks
If not for the fact that there is a Federal Election this year, David Hicks would still be incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay five years without trial. Because the incarceration of David Hicks was hurting the Coalition in the polls, Hicks is now back in Australia. So an Australian Federal Government let Hicks rot in GB for 5 years because they did not want to offend the USA! What did the ACL do to bring Hicks back? The CDP? The answer is nothing.

3. Aboriginal reconciliation.
This week we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the vote being given to Aborigines. Prior to that they were counted as part of the fauna of Australia! What is the ACL’s position on reconciliation? The CDP’s ?

4. Private school funding.
The obscene amounts of money spent on the Private Schools in Australia by the Federal Government instead of Public school is disgraceful and fast becoming an embarrassment to the Government in this election year. What is the ACL’s position on funding for public school education? The CDP’s ?

5. Laws for a Secret State without any safeguards
Malcolm Fraser said that the new ASIO legislation overturns long-held concepts of basic justice. We are the only democratic country to legislate for the detention of people whom the authorities do not suspect of any wrong doing or even of any wrong thought.In Australia, any of us can be detained merely because authorities believe we might know something that we don't even know we know. The authorities do not have to believe we are guilty of any crime, or are planning any crime, or have consorted with any suspicious persons. How could such a law be drafted by the Government and supported by the Labor opposition? You can be detained for one week but then on a new warrant, another and another and another week. Unless it is approved in the original warrant, and why would ASIO do that? - you are not allowed to contact your wife, your husband, your child, your mother, your father and of course not a lawyer. If you don't answer ASIO's questions satisfactorily, you can be charged and subject to 5 years in jail. But the law is reasonable, it goes on to say that if you don't know anything, then it's not an offence not to tell ASIO anything!!! But you have to prove you didn't know anything and so the "onus of proof" is reversed.You can be asked to produce a paper and if you don't, you also go to jail on prosecution for 5 years but the law goes on to say, being fair-minded again, if you don't have such a paper, it's not an offence not to produce it but you have to prove that you didn't have it. How do you prove that you do not have something that you do not even know exists!!! Again, the "onus of proof" is reversed.If a journalist heard that you had been detained and sought to report it, he would go to jail for 5 years. If a detained person were released and talked to anyone about his or her experiences, subject to prosecution, five years in jail.This seems to be a law for secret behaviour by authorities, for making somebody disappear. It is a law that one would expect in tyrannical countries and not in Australia. Do we do nothing about it because we believe it will not apply to ourselves? Do we believe it is only going to apply to people of a different religion who look a bit different? What is the ACL’s position on this? The CDP’s ?

I have not touched on other Social Justice issues such as, the sedition laws, the debacle in Iraq, the heinous IR laws. Let’s cut to the chase, this is where the rubber hits the road. What do you think about the Social Justice issues I have raised in this post? I do not want a semi-official ACL or CDP bloviate. I want to know what you, Marcus Claxton, think about the issues I have raised. For me, the most significant part of your three posts was the last sentence in the last post which states “I have too much to think about now”. This is the purpose of Progression to make people think outside their comfort zone. So let’s have some dialogue about what you really think!! I look forward to reading your reply.

Ciao,

Ash

ADHD Librarian said...

I won't try to reply to everything on this thread, but I want to wade in on one comment made by Marcus
"I would say that a majority of Christians in our country do in fact support what Fred Nile stands for."
I would have to say that that is not true in my experience. Nile's views are seen as extreme by a large number of Christians. That is not to say that people don't respect his faith or his commitment.
Whereas with the ACL, the majority of Australian Christians would have very little idea of what their position is on most issues and unless people are inspired to look and see whether they agree or not, many will follow by default because they are told that this is the Christian view. Even the name gives me concern as it implies that they are THE Christian voice.

On a positive note (because you're right Marcus, it's better not to approach things from a negative perspective), I'd like to include an excerpt from an email I received about the first of the newsletters

"Nice work John. I've had a speed read through this and it looks great. I'll print out a some copies tomorrow and distribute to a few friends as I'm in Brisbane at the moment. The best thing is that this is something I can give to non-Christian friends as well."

ADHD Librarian said...

Oh and on another issue,
Although you have declared yourself to the political right, I know that you have a lot of social justice concerns (or did once upon a time). So if you are inspired to write something on an issue you think that the Australian Church is overlooking, well I'd love to read it.

and have you tried the political compass quiz? If so, post your position on the comments thread, I'd be interested to know.

Marcus Claxton said...

Ash,

In a sense you have kind of proved the point that I was trying to make initially. I'm not having a go at anyone and I'm not really trying to say that the ACL or CDP are the only way to go or anything like that. What I was trying to say was that I would have thought that an article that covered the second half of your post would probably have been a much better introduction to the world for Progression rather than one pointing the finger and using terminology like "battling the hijacking of the Christian voice". It comes across as very devisive and I don't think that there needs to be devision while still enabling a left wing or social justive voice to be heard loud and clear.

I have looked closely at the ACL and the CDP as well and you know what, you are right, they have at times done things that are hypocritical. Family First, again I think there may be justification for pointing the finger and crying hypocrites. But in the end I am 100% sure that there have been occasions in my life that people could have been quite justified in saying the same thing about me and I am a lay leader in a church!

In my time as a Christian I have come to realise that those people who are my leaders in all forms of authority, the ones that I choose to follow and those that I have to follow are, wait for it, not perfect. They all make mistakes. Some small mistakes and some large mistakes. I have never ever met anyone at all who gets it right every time. So this leads me to think that if I am always looking for some person (other than Jesus) to follow who get's it right 100% of the time then I'm going to be looking for a long time. Now for me personally this is a principle that I choose to apply to all people regardless of who they are, that I understand that at some stage they will probably make a mistake, stuff up or let me down in some way.

So Fred Nile. He doesn't get it right ALL the time. Does he turn some people off Christianity? Yes probably. Have I done things that would turn people off Christianity, I hope not but there is a possibility. So has Fred Nile ever preached heresy? Now here's the curly question isn't it. In my opinion no he hasn't. From what I understand of Jesus' teachings and Paul's for that matter they would say that as long as the word and the gospel are preached then that is the most important thing and as long as there is no heresy whoever is doing the preaching is doing a good job. This is where the can of worms get's opened and I know that you and I probably differ. So I'll add the following.

I am willing to forgive the failings of man when I know the true heart of the man. I am convinced of the compassion and the love for Christ in the heart of Fred Nile, and Jim Wallace and many others who are probably part of the right wing hijackers. Does Fred Nile go too far some times yes probably but in the end he has the cause of Christ at the core of what he does and what he believe (even if he get's in the way sometimes).

Again, I'm not really tring to defend him as such but instead point out that it is not with him that there should be a battle. I would contend as well that should Paul the Apostle be alive today he himself would probably be even more openly condemning of sexual sin in our society than Fred Nile ever has been. I would also contend that from the way Paul wrote that he would probably be considered "Right Wing Authoritarian" especially on the area of sexual issues.

If a group or an individual found prominence and was openly preaching heresy then I would be the first to cry out against them. But when there is no heresy I do not see the point of saying things like the "right wing hijacking" of the Christian voice. I am a firm believer that if you have something to say, get up and say it but be positive and don't spend most of your time pointing out how or why everyone else is doing things wrong.

If you want to find hypocrisy you will find it where ever people are, not just in the ACL but in the Greens, in the Labor party, in the Libs. If you want to find failures of people to live up to the way Christ would do things then you will find that whereever people are as well, not just Fred Nile, in politics, from the pulpit everywhere.

There is a quote that I love that kind of describes what I am trying to say:

"We judge others by their actions but we expect others to judge us by our motives."

It may be naive of me, or it might be childish or whatever but I choose to endeavour to judge all others by their motives rather than their actions because I understand that sometimes ALL people make mistakes.

Emma and I have for years respected each others differing political views and I believe that this is because we have understood each other's motives and that they are good. Why can't this understanding be afforded to the likes of Jim Wallace and Fred Nile? Do you believe that they are intentionally trying to drive people away from becoming Christians? Do you believe that they have motives other than the cause of Christ in their hearts? If so what could these other motives be? When I first was introduced to "Family First" it was through Peter Harris. The way he spoke and the things that he said showed me in no uncertain terms that here was a man who loved Christ deeply and wanted to see the Kingdom of God extended, and that he believed firmly that family first was one way to do this. The spirit about him was right I guess you could say. So it astounded me when he and others with similar motivations who were involved in that received such open violent criticism after the last federal election. Did they make mistakes, probably but I bet they would also put their hands up now and acknowledge that as well. I personally see no point in heaping criticsim on people when they are simply trying to do their best.

I am all for more emphasis being placed on social justice issues. This I have absolutely no problem with and as John indicated I have long held strong beliefs in this area. In my opinion though for what it is worth this emphasis cannot be pushed behind Christians bickering among themselves about who is doing things right and who is not. The CDP has it's place, the ACL has it's place, and Progression has it's place. They are not mutually exclusive and it is unnecessary for finger pointing. The right wingers are in their own eyes doing what they believe is right, as are you. Until someone starts preaching heresy can't we just let everyone get on with the job at hand.

Emma said...

Hey heaps I could say about that last post but I'll just say reply to " Did they make mistakes, probably but I bet they would also put their hands up now and acknowledge that as well."

Umm, in fact no. And I am in a position to know that pretty well! If by "mistakes" you mean there were lies and manipulation, then this has never been acknowledge or apologised for.

and about the fred Nuile heresy thing...he's not a minister, he's a politican, so discussing heresy is a bit odd here. I have no doubt he loves God and I'll probably see him in heaven. My complaint is how he does his politics and presents one very narrow view of Christianity as THE view. He may not be heretical in the true sense of the word but I think he is bigoted, racist and narrow minded. That's what I have a problem with.

Emma said...

Oh and I should add that it terrifies me what would happen if the CDP got on with "the job at hand" without anyone criticising them!

Anonymous said...

Is Fred Nile getting on with the job? I wonder what he sees as his job in Australian politics? What does the church think its job is?

This is such a difficult question, because as Marcus says, I am confident (kind of) that Fred Nile is motivated by a desire to do God's work. And we have to give him points for consistency! No-one is confused about where he stands as a Christian.

The problem is, of course, that it is assumed that all Christians think the same as Fred and his followers. This misconception has been the fault of Christians leaning to the left; it is a shame that no-one has really spoken up about this until now - well done Progression!

Those people must have squirmed in their pews, and despaired in polling booths all over Australia that the Christian voice was so narrow - yet we never really heard them say anything. I am so thankful that there is finally an alternative - I don't believe that it promotes disunity or negativity.

Why is there a fear in the church that difference of opinion will cause us all some great calamity? If we can debate and discuss our differences in love, then perhaps we'll come to a greater understanding of Christianity.

And we might just do some good in this country of ours as well...

RAJANE

ash said...

Marcus,

I am glad you had the opportunity to look closely at the CDP and the ACL and come to the conclusion that I was right, that they are hyprocritical.. Now let me ask you whether you would have looked closely at them had you not read a post on Progression about their hypocrisy? The answer is definitely not. With due respect to you., how many people do you influence? Your wife? Perhaps. Your cell group? Certainly. So let’s say 10 -20 people are directly influenced by you. How many people do you think are influenced by the ACL and the CDP? Thousands? Certainly. Hundreds of thousands? Probably. And how many of those thousands(and perhaps hundreds of thousands) would have looked closely at the ACL and the CDP, as you have done, and determined that they were hyprocritical in their comments? And that they were, in fact, misled by these groups. Very few, in fact probably none. Do you see where I am going? When the leaders of these groups make pronouncements thousands of people take them at their word. And when they are wrong and hypocritical they mislead people. A measure of the influence of the ACL is when Jim Wallace boasted that two days after K Rudd became Leader of the Opposition, the ACL was granted an interview with Kevin Rudd. If I asked for a meeting with Kevin, they would have laughed at me. So when leaders of groups like the ACL, who wield enormous influence, make gross error of judgement, the impact is tremendous and far-reaching. That is why it is incumbent on them to ensure that when they make pronouncements they get it right, every time. There is no margin for error in this situation. And who will correct them? Not the thousands of people who follow them! It is up to people like us to point out the nature of the hypocrisy and ensure their wrong comments get air-time to point out the error of their ways. So that other people, like you, may analyse their comments and arrive at the same conclusions I have arrived at. What that does is that they will think the next time these leaders make comments that maybe they are not right, after all. And I do not apologise one little bit for rocking the boat. In fact, it is incumbent on me to point out to people the wrong message being disseminated by the so-called leaders of the Christian right! When Jesus came to this earth, he rocked the boat hard enough to drive a Mack truck through the establishment (Sadducees\Pharisees etc). So I have no problem in doing the same.

Now you mention the CDP and Fred Nile being a Christian and having compassion. So tell me, what compassion was in Fred Nile’s mind when he sent a petition which was read out in the church recently wanting to ban Muslim immigration for 10 years? Compassion? Love of fellow men? Give me a break. I have had more compassion from non-Christians than from Fred Nile. You are wrong when you say the battle is not with Fred Nile. It is , particularly when he wields such enormous influence with other Christians. And when he sends an outrageous petition like the one read out in Church, it is incumbent on people like me to point out he is wrong and he speaks from hate and not from love. What did Jesus say? Love your neighbour as you love yourself! Where is this love in Fred Nile? This story will illustrates the point I have made. When the petition was read out in church, it was pointed out that it would be left at the back of the auditorium for people to sign it if they wanted to. I did not agree with the petition being read out in church, but that is another story. I was having a cup of tea after the service when I passed a group of people standing by the driveway drinking tea. One of the group spoke to me and asked me to sign a petition. What petition, I asked? The petition that was read out in church was the reply. You mean the Fred Nile petition, I replied. Yes was the answer. I said I thought it was left at the back of the auditorium for people to sign if they wanted to. The reply was that there were only a few signatures and they wanted more. (Who are they? Another mystery). In a few choice words I told the group exactly what I thought of the petition and also Fred Nile. The people in the group were stunned to think that a person who worshipped at the church would actually not sign a Fred Nile petition and said so!!. This little fracas clearly showed me that Christians blindly follow Fred Nile and have no thought of the ramifications of such a racist petition. Who’s next? Buddhists? Jews? You may believe Fred Nile and the CDP but the cause of Christ is not helped by such an outrageous petition. I would be remiss in my duty if I did not point out such hypocrisy. Now some people in the church might think twice before they sign petitions by the CDP or the ACL.

You also mention Family First. I have a different understanding of Peter Harris and that the Family First party was the way to see the KoG extended. Let me say this, I am a firm believer in Christians being elected to political office. I am also extremely adamant about the division of Church and State. They must never meet, in my opinion. I congratulated Joan in her attempt to win a Senate seat at the last Federal election. I would have liked to see her resign from her position of Senior Pastor in the church, But she assured us and others via the national press that the church would not, in any way, participate or assist in her race to the Senate. I believed this. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the list of candidates for seats in NSW and found Caz’s name in the list for a Federal seat hundreds of kilometers from where she lived. This must be a mistake, I thought. I know Caz and she does not have a political bone in her body!. So I looked again. There it was, no mistake, and so was Michael’s name for another Federal seat. Robert’s name was there and so were many others from the church? Now what about the promise that was made in the national press that the church would not assist or participate in the election? It was a lie and unethical to boot. I did not rock the boat and let it lie out of loyalty (misguided, perhaps) to the church although this was quite dangerous news if the press got hold of it.
Some weeks later, I received an email from the church disseminating political propaganda for the Family First Party. Now I do not know about you, but I do not vote for the FF party and I was incensed that a private church email database was being used to further the FF election campaign. Again, I do not know about you, but I value my privacy and I do not appreciate the church’s email database being used to further the FF party. I immediately took this up with leadership and asked them if they knew the danger that Joan was in. Despite stating the church would not assist or participate in her race to the Senate, to the contrary the church’s resources were being used for that very purpose. If the press had got hold of this, it had the potential to blow her campaign and thus FF out of the water! Tell me, how was the KoG extended by these unethical practices. By the deliberate lies? The church leadership replied insisting there were no problems. I immediately resigned from the leadership role I had in the church as I would not put up with an issue that compromised my ethics and principles. As for FF, others knew about the deception. How they handled it is their problem. A year later I was told privately the leadership had made mistakes and mishandled the FF race to the Senate. I would have had more respect for leadership if they had acknowledged their mistakes publicly in the church!!

You also state that Paul the Apostle will be openly condemning of sexual sin than Fred Nile. I do not have a problem with either Paul or Fred Nile condemning sexual sin. The problem I have with Fred Nile is that he wants to impose his morality on everyone else to the point of legislating it! I will not accept that. Jesus has given everyone the right to live whatever lifestyle they choose either to go in through the narrow gate or the wide gate. It is everyone’s free choice. You and I may not like certain lifestyles people live but they have a free choice to live these lifestyles.

The purpose of Progression is to make Christians think instead of blindly following the current Christian leadership (ACL, CDP. FF) and the right-wing moralizing they go on with. They do have some valid points to make but they are not the moral arbiters of this nation. Nor do they speak for all Christians in Australia, although they may state it. Progression shows there is an alternative. The fact that you have started to think independently is a victory for Progression.

Ciao,

Ash

rajane said...

Ash,

Well said, well said, well said.

Sometimes I sit and imagine what would happen if we let a few influencial right-wing Christians just go for it (politically)....

Imagine if we all sat back and let them speak for us. If we let them place our votes. If we let them speak to politicians on behalf of us all. If we let them get involved with banning and passing every bill without a word from us. If we let them read whatever racist petitions they supported in our churches.

Are you sweating yet? Hyperventilating?

God forbid we do not have our say.

Michael Earl said...

Hi all you Progression folk and all you other bloggers!! I just want to say that it is great to see so many people out there passionate about the Gospel and its work in the world. I have been an keen observer of this debate as I have an ongoing interest in the connections between faith and politics. I should come clean straight away and say that I know Emma and Marcus both very well - hi Em, hi Marcus - and so you might say my objectivity is somewhat blurred, still I thought I'd add my two cents worth as I respect all of the people who enter this debate and hope that good fruit is produced through it!

Firstly, let me say that I completely understand Progression's frustration with some of the conservative lobbyists who are out there. I know how it feels when you are a Christian and you feel you are being mis-represented to the wider community, sometimes in negative ways. So I am pleased that a group like progression is willing to come together to offer a different voice. I would just point out, though, that the Uniting Church, for instance, has a strong political agenda and is generally much more along the lines progression is advocating. So there are alternative voices out there. Progression can hopefully add to this.

There are a few things that have been said through this debate that I have some trouble with...

There is no doubt that we Christians are called to be unified, (though really this is more of a spiritual unity than anything else - John 17), and that unnecessary criticism and vitriol can lead to fractures. We must always be cognizant of this, and I do think that some of the rhetoric Progression has produced has bordered on being unhelpful rather than constructive. However - and this is a big however - those of us who are Protestants come from a tradition that advocates and embraces critique of structures and policies when they fall away from the gospel. It is easy to say 'we ought to be unified' if you are comfortable with the decisions being made and the way in which they're made. It is not so easy if you are not. So, I believe that critique is good. We need to listen to each other and call each other to account. It would seem odd that in trying to get society to listen to us and hopefully change, we were unwilling to listen to each other.

I think that Progression has some valid points to make thus far. Any time Christians become involved in politics, it is going to be fraught with danger. There is no 'natural' Christian political party after all left, right, or left right out! Our allegiance is first to Christ and none other. My experience of some of the recent forays into politics by Christian groups has left me with many concerns. Not least, the aversion to criticism that the more conservative groups often display usually with the disclaimer that dissenters are displaying 'disunity'. We must always welcome criticism if it is delivered with the right intentions. It is also a dangerous idea to suggest too loudly that people in authority are fallible like anyone and so ought to be forgiven things if their heart is in the right place. This is, of course, technically true and forgiveness is a watchword that all Christians should live by. However, forgiveness does not mean setting aside accountability and good judgment. If leaders too often get things wrong, they probably shouldn't be leaders. Many leaders in history have been 'well intentioned' - although even that notion is problematic as who decides what 'good intentions' are? - but have made catastrophic mistakes that have led to untold disaster. No, leaders need to be accountable.

This being said, the conservative lobby groups do some really good stuff and do offer another Christian voice in the debate and this is always to be welcomed. They also offer a voice on Christian morality that is too often missing from the Christian voice. It is unthinkable to conclude that Christ lets everyone be free in their lifestyle choices. I believe the truth is almost diametrically opposed to this. Christ calls us to the most difficult task we will ever undertake, that of Christian discipleship. The real freedom of this is to know that when we fall short God's grace is sufficient for us all, not that we can make whatever choices we want. We are called to stand apart from the ways of the world and live lives that reflect the sacrifice Christ has made for us all. This requires every ounce of fibre within us and a life of constant prayer. As I'm sure all you Progression folk are aware, this is never easy. I think there is a confusion here between the notion of political freedom in liberal-democracies and Christian freedom in Christ. They are two very different ideas. I think it is right that Christians proclaim what they hold dear in society and morality should be no different. After all, it was a sense of Christian morality that led William Wilberforce and others to fight to pass laws outlawing the slave trade. In fact John Newton from whom we get the most famous of Christian hymns 'Amazing Grace' was himself a slave trade ship captain until he came to the realisation that oppression was not the way of Christ. It is in this sense that political freedom offers us Christians our greatest opportunity. We are politically free to proclaim the infinitely difficult task of following Christ in the world. As I'm sure you are all aware, in more totalitarian states we would probably be arrested for doing this, if not worse.

So...

Those are just my initial thoughts. I look forward to the ongoing debate and the hope that the gospel might continue to influence a world that sorely needs it. Keep at it all of you and I will wait for someone to reply and keep me accountable where I have blind spots or biases.

Blessings to you all.

Michael

Emma said...

Hey Mick,
so glad to have you in the conversation! You made some great points.

Just a few thoughts...totally agree with you re: Uniting Church. You guys have been a lot more progressive in this way than any other denomination.

you said "I think there is a confusion here between the notion of political freedom in liberal-democracies and Christian freedom in Christ. They are two very different ideas. I think it is right that Christians proclaim what they hold dear in society and morality should be no different. After all, it was a sense of Christian morality that led William Wilberforce and others to fight to pass laws outlawing the slave trade." Sorry to repost a huge chunk, but I thought there were some interesting points in there. Firstly, the idea of Christian morality. I see where you are coming from, and being someone who would be called "morally conservative" I to some extent agree. But I have three problems with this idea about Christian morality. The first is what you have to some extent pointed out, that there is a difference between liberty in democracy and freedom in Christ. I guess I wanted to make it clear that this is what Progression is about - not that as Christians we are excused from righteousness, but that non-Christians are. That while we need to be scrupulous about the kinds of lives we need, I don't think that gives us the right to hold others to the same standars we hold ourselves. Secondly, the idea that Christian morality is seen as separate from social justice. As you pointed out, William Wilberforce's sense of morality led him to outlawing slave trade. But unfortunately, many of those who opposed him were Christians who weren't al all concerned for the welfare of those who were deemed sub human. And as I look at some of the policies and the rhetoric of parties and politicans like Fred Nile I don't see much has changed, ie refugees. Moral issues are social justice issues, but unfortunately it doesn't come across that way.

lastly, the problem with "Christian morality" is that it is so damn hard to define? What is it? The Christian Democrats coming out against the cervical cancer vaccine given to teenage girls? Protesting the Mardis Gras? Being against Stem Cell research? As you guys would know, being part of the Uniting Church, there are those who passionately believe homosexuality is a sin. And there are those who don't. What about divorce? Remarriage? Sperm donors? Abortion? Sex before marriage? My point is that there is such a huge range of what Christians believe about these issues that to say "this is the Christian view" may not necessarily be the case. I'm not saying we should therefore be silent on moral issues, but maybe admit there are more grey areas than we like to think there are.

so glad you're in this conversation!

em

Michael Earl said...

Hi Em,

Thanks for the reply, as always you are thoughtful and considered in your view. You make excellent points. Christian morality is certainly hard to define as there are many different views. It's also, as I've said to you before, how we think about ethics and how we express how we think about them. A large part of Christian history has tended to favour a more deontological ethical framework a la the Ten Commandments. This is certainly a model found in the Christian narrative. But then again so is a more virtue ethic stance. Generally, though, ethics is more nuanced than we give it credit for. There are certainly 'grey' areas in almost all issues.

It is usually the way we express our views that gets us into trouble and I have to say that I think all Christian groups, left, right, whatever, have been guilty of this at one time or another. We tend to get so self-righteous which actually does more damage than any good we might be trying to achieve. I believe that George Pell's recent tirade on stem cell legislation is a perfect example. So what do we do? As you say there are often many Christian views on certain issues.

What I think is that it is okay to stand firm on an issue and even to suggest that it might be good for society if others would do the same - eg on treatment of refugees - as long as we acknowledge that there are many sides to the argument and as long as we do it with respect for others who may disagree with us and an attitude of humility. So often, we lack this. We should acknowledge, though, that our faith does call us to love all people and at the same time to live in a way that reflects what we believe regardless of which nominal side of politics this lands us in. So much of it comes down to maintaining a conversation with each other and continually thinking through what being a Christian actually asks of us. In listening to each other we can see our own blind spots as I've said.

Lets have a case study. Say, in relation to abortion, I think it is good that as Christians we publicly state that we are not generally in favour of abortion and believe in the sanctity of life - this is what the Christian tradition has generally held and still today most Christian groups would in principle disagree with the general premise of abortion along these lines - as long as we also admit that it is often a difficult decision for a woman (and by extension of relationship men) to make especially when there are extenuating circumstances that make the decision more complex such as if the life of the mother is in danger. Now there will be those Christians who will say that even then it is wrong, but we must see the humanity in people in these difficult circumstances and not judge them in relation to the decision they make. So, we proclaim the principle, but love the people without judgement who find themselves in very difficult circumstances.

So, it's a 'yes', 'and' job, I believe. 'Yes' we should speak into the public realm about things we, as Christians, are passionate about and part of the beauty of it is that because we are a diverse bunch, we usually tend to cover a wide variety of issues from social justice to personal morality, 'and' we should do it with humility and respect, though always with passion. This way we can listen to each other and continue to discern together what we believe is right. This is why I like critique because what we are really doing is keeping each other accountable. This process, is, of course, what the Christian tradition has always done and it is how we have what I would call some general agreements on certain ethical issues. In regards to theology this is how the early councils of the church came to decisions over certain doctrines that we now affirm. There will always be more controversial ones that we don't generally agree on so readily, and so the conversation must go on. Just as we are doing here regarding how we speak publicly into a world that I still believe sorely needs our influence.

So keep at it I say!

Michael

Emma said...

Mick, all great comments. I have been thinking a lot lately about the ethics thing, and it really does explain a lot about how we view issues, the standards we have etc. It's also interesting how so many people who would think they hold "black and white" views probably don't, if they really think about it, especially in terms of "consequentialist" ethics.

re: the abortion case study, that was really interesting, and the conclusions you have drawn would be why I support legalised abortion (with some changes - I would prefer to see it limited to 10 weeks) while still holding the view that life is sacred. That's also why I supported the morning after pill.