Vote 1 God – what happened to Christian unity?

I’ve written about antidisestablishmentarianism several times because it’s a really cool long word. The idea that the church and state should be separated is foundational to our form of democracy and the Westminster system of government – it’s an idea supported by both religious institutions and members of the political elite – but sometimes the accusations of sectarianism can be taken too far at the expense of Christians with a genuine interest in participating in government and politicians who allow their faith to shape their political stance on controversial issues.

With an election coming up next year the battle for the Christian vote – which isn’t as decisive as it is in the US – is heating up. Last time round the right v left tit for tat saw Peter Costello attend the Hillsong conference and other religious posturing designed to secure elements of the largely conservative vote. A vote considered somewhat more important with the advent of the Family First party who are widely considered the default party for the Christian right. Kevin Rudd has been working hard to secure the votes of the Christian left – and those Christian’s dissatisfied with the Howard government’s record on humanitarian issues like asylum seekers and Iraq (and even Work Choices).

Tony Abbott – one half of the Coalition’s dynamic, overtly religious Abbott and Costello duo has come out with all guns blazing at Rudd in a speech at a Catholic bookshop. The virulently anti-religious Sydney Morning Herald reported the spat between two of parliament’s Christian figures with some glee.

The fact that one of Australia’s most influential newspapers takes such joy in highlighting disunity between Christian members of parliament should serve as a warning to these politicians who wish to use their Christianity as a method to garner votes from fellow Christians. Using Christianity to divide rather than unite has a rather unpleasant stench. These two combatants apparently lack the class of former deputy PM John Anderson who had bipartisan respect for his personal integrity and expressions of faith. I’m not sure the end of their respective careers will be met with the same accolades from both sides of the floor – and I suspect this lack of dignity and farmyard scrapping over who is the better man of faith will be a telling factor.

I’m not sure I like the idea of politicians pandering to my faith in a bid to have me choose a political side – as far as I’m concerned there are significant weaknesses and strengths on both sides and I’m going to vote based on who has the least offensive policies.

The public school chaplaincy issue is another kettle of fish that I’ll discuss in a later blog after further conversations with Mr Benny. Here’s another SMH article for your consideration.

October 31, 2006

In Uncategorized


AndrewF says:

Nathan, are you sure that separation of church and state is foundational to the westminster system of Government? I could be wrong (and please, correct me if I am) but the westminster system is the british system right? The british system has seats for Bishops in the house of Lords.. so how is that separation of Church and State? I don’t know that the British have ever claimed such a separation.. (although they are one of the most secular governments in practice!)

Nathan says:

The Westminster system is the system established by our constitution and modelled on the English system whereby the arms of government are separate – the legislative, executive and judicial. The Westminster system is typified by a constitution – The British set up is an exception, having a state church is a rarity these days and is not seen as ideal – the Archbishop of Canterbury is still appointed by the Prime Minister of England which is hardly an ideal position for the church.

Our constitution (in section 116) provides freedom of religious expression – thus moving away from a state run, or even state sanctioned religion. This constitutional provision is the only legislation separating church and state in Australia – and the constitution is establishing the Westminster system in Australia.

So in summary – the separation of powers is a fundamental principle of the Westminster system. British people are weird. Everywhere else in the democratic world has taken the idea of separation of powers to include the church.

Mark says:

How’s your first staring(sic) role going, Nathan?

AndrewF says:

Right… so the westminster system isn’t what goes on in Westminster?

Sara says:

Hi Nath

Not sure how you rate The Australian as a reliable newspaper, but I’ve noticed quite a few ‘Christian’ articles relating to this topic and similar that I thought you might find as interesting as I did.

I was initially drawn to an article which apparently is a reproduction of a sermon given in response to Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali’s recent comments. The female priest’s purpose for speaking is to explain how Sheik Hilali is a wanker!

I was intrigued to search further, and found articles about politics v religion etc etc which I thought might be of interest to you.