Dr Kevin Donnelly: The PM and Christianity

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Scott Morrison opens a Hillsong conference 2019. PHOTO: L32007/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0L32007

Every decision made in politics and government is informed and influenced by a particular philosophy or belief system

As argued by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, “absolutist secularism” is an ever-present danger to Australian society as those hostile to the Catholic Church seek to banish Christianity from the public square and enforce a godless view of society.

Examples include Tony Abbott when health minister being attacked as the mad monk for questioning the increasing prevalence of abortion and Kevin Andrews the federal member for Menzies being vilified as a Christian for stopping the legislation to allow euthanasia in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory in 1996.

The most recent example of prejudice and dislike directed at any politician brave enough to make public their religious convictions involves Prime Minister Scott Morrison who, at a national Christian Churches conference this year made public examples of his faith.

..the reality is Australia never has been and, in all likelihood never will be despite the PM’s religious faith, a theocracy..

The Prime Minister, while agreeing social media has it’s “virtues and values”, argued it was also a weapon that could “be used by the evil one and we need to call that out”.  One only needs to note the way social networking sites are used to dehumanise, exploit and manipulate people to realise the truth of such a statement.

Scott Morrison also told those attending the conference that when he met people who had suffered because of natural disasters he often prayed to alleviate their suffering and admitted in embracing victims he was also “laying hands on people”.

For admitting his faith and sharing his religious convictions it should not surprise, like Israel Folau and Margaret Court for opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the Prime Minister has also been criticised and attacked.

The Sydney social commentator and author Jane Caro’s response on her twitter account reads “Theocracies are very dangerous, particularly for women, the LBGTQI community and anyone who does not accept the dominant religion”.  For expressing such a view Caro adds she will most likely “be visited by the witch finder any day now”.

While not as extreme, the leader of the federal opposition Anthony Albanese also criticises the Prime Minister for expressing his religious beliefs.  Albanese suggests “the idea that God is on any politicians side is no more respectful than the idea that when somebody’s sporting team wins it’s because of divine intervention”.

The Australian Labor Party leader also states “the separation between Church and state are (sic) important”, implying religion, in this case Christianity, is a strictly private affair that has no place or role in Western, liberal democracies like Australia.  The ABC commentator Stan Grant puts a similar case when arguing “we are not the United States” where it’s expected Presidents are religious.

Contrary to what Caro argues the reality is Australia never has been and, in all likelihood never will be despite the PM’s religious faith, a theocracy like Islamic Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  Under the Australian Constitution there is a clear division between Church and state and holding a religious office is not a prerequisite for being a member of parliament.

While such is the case, and to that extent we are a secular society, it is also wrong to argue Christianity is insignificant and that it has no role to play in the nation’s political and legal systems.  As argued by the Perth academic Augusto Zimmerman in The Christian Foundations of the Common Law religion underpins and informs the nation’s parliaments and courts.

Zimmerman writes “When considered alongside the development of colonial laws, the adoption of the English common-law tradition and American system of federation, it is evident that the foundations of the Australian nation, and its laws, have discernible Christian-philosophical roots”.

Concepts like the inherent dignity of the person, the right to liberty and freedom and the need to commit to social justice and the common good, as detailed in Inventing the Individual The Origins of Western Liberalism by Larry Siedentop, have their origins in Christ’s teaching detailed in the New Testament.

Those arguing there is no place for Christianity in public life, especially politics and government, also ignore the reality that whether individuals are aware of it or not every decision they make is informed and influenced by a particular philosophy or belief system.

Cultural-left activists committed to banishing religion from the public square are often motivated by neo-Marxist ideology; one where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are the prophets, the Communist Manifesto is the bible and those committed to the faith are promised a socialist utopia on this earth.

As such it is hypocritical and illogical to argue socialist ALP members of parliament and Green politicians worshipping the Gaia have the right to decide public policy according to their beliefs while denying Christians the same right.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and editor of Cancel Culture and the Left’s Long March (kevindonnelly.com.au).