Salt: of the earth

I’m writing an article for WebSALT – the online edition of the AFES magazine. The next edition is all about the environment.

My topic: “How should Christians relate to the green party in the political sphere?”

It’s a good question – and I’ve shared my own thoughts on the Greens – or at the very least the environmental lobby here in the past.

In the interest of objectivity – I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of some others.

If your thoughts are good enough I may even include a quote in the piece.

If they’re not they’ll no doubt shape the final product anyway.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

34 thoughts on “Salt: of the earth”

  1. I’m not exactly “greens-inclined” but I think I am moreso than you.

    My thoughts are that we have the right to use the earth and its resources, but the responsibility to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy them.

    So we can eat beef as long as we don’t drive cattle to extinction. We can build timber houses as long as we don’t destroy entire native habitats for animals. We can have plumbing systems as long as we aren’t polluting every waterway within twenty kilometres. We can run power stations as long as we don’t fill people’s and animal’s lungs with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. etc.

    People might point at global warming and say we’re destroying the earth. I’d suggest that our use of the earth’s resources is not what’s causing global warming. People might point at polluted waterways and I’d say they’re spot-on. There are things that are obviously our fault- polluted waterways, over-deforestation, fertiliser washing onto the reef and killing it, etc. We need to take responsibility for those things and fix them. Instead we’re too busy fussing over a much larger problem for which we are far less responsible.

  2. I will refrain from giving my thoughts, because I think they may fit into that last category for you.

    BUT I do have a whole pile of comments from a pastor friend to the green discussion from last month that might be relevant. I will try and post them tonight.

  3. Also, I would suggest perhaps looking at tear.org.au for some Christian responses to the environment. They would say pretty much what I would want to say except with clarity.

  4. Okay, can’t resist.

    Maybe, this issue is most about every single person taking responsibility for themselves and their impact, and being mindful of their actions and the consequences of those actions.

    I think the idea of treating others as you would yourself means more than just being nice to those immediately around you, but looking beyond that and realising that the way you are living now is harming others around the world.

  5. Actually, I think there are a few of us who have also shared our own thoughts in the past…

    I think the core of the problem with Christians and the Greens, is that they have entirely different worldviews as their foundation. For Christians, we are coming from the perspective that God made the world perfect and gave man the responsiblity of filling the earth, subduing it and having dominion over every living thing (Gen 1:28). But we stuffed it up gloriously and now we are cursed, the earth is cursed, and the whole relationship doesn’t run smoothly anymore.
    The Greens, on the other hand, have taken God out of the picture, and therefore sin is removed also, along with all resulting curses. Now no living thing is any more important than any other, so equal value has to be given to every living thing, man included. But, because man seems to be further evolved than most living things, we have to take responsibility for the mess that we’ve created in the world.
    I’m not convinced, however, that most people with either worldview take their worldviews to their logical extremes, and so there are Christians who exploit mineral deposits, and Greens who put out rat traps and spray for termites.

    I’m quite happy with that. I might just pop it up on my blog.

  6. The Greens, on the other hand, have taken God out of the picture, and therefore sin is removed also, along with all resulting curses.

    When you say ‘The Greens’ here though, who are you meaning? The political party in Australia? A particular green lobby? Anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist?

    I don’t think you could say that ‘Greens’ will automatically not have a faith or that God is not involved in their beliefs and ideals.

    I guess I also wanted to say that being green doesn’t mean that you can’t put down a rat trap or think that a kangaroo cull is necessary – it’s all about balance really. That humans don’t tip the scales too far.

    Again with the not lumping all people together under one tag and thinking they have the same opinion.

    1. We are at this point talking wholly and solely about the political party as far as I’m concerned. That’s the context of the question.

  7. I’m talking about the political party, but making a generalisation about them.

    If you take the idea to the logical extreme, then it would be wrong to put down a rat trap, because a rat’s life would be of equal importance to a human’s.

  8. If you take the idea ALL the way to the logical extreme we’d have to find a way to make all animals vegetarians…

    If Nathan had not mocked me for using an emoticon earlier that would include one indicating that was a joke.

    Would be interesting to actually have a breakdown of belief within the Greens party. Also, I would guess that there would be factions within the Greens just as within the other major parties.

    1. Yeah – the “land rights for gay whales” faction, the atheist faction, the hippy faction, the pot smoking faction, the tree planting faction, and the communist faction.

  9. Looking at the Green’s website here in terms of their values/ethos:

    Peace and Non Violence, Grassroots Democracy,
    Social and Economic Justice, Ecological Sustainability

    The key word to this debate here being sustainability, which doesn’t imply an extreme anti-people/progress attitude to me.

    A few more examples of policy:

    Environment

    The Greens will:

    End broad-scale land-clearing and clearing of remnant vegetation
    Fund and enforce recovery plans for threatened and endangered species
    Ensure a comprehensive, adequate and representative system of protected areas
    Support landowners to protect and restore nature conservation values on their land
    End the logging of old growth and high conservation value forests
    Introduce an Oceans Act to ensure the sustainable use of our marine and coastal resources
    Support a comprehensive international ban on commercial and “scientific” whaling.

    Justice and Human Rights

    The Greens will:

    Replace Australia’s ‘counter-terrorism’ laws, with laws that respect universal human rights
    Repeal sedition laws
    Protect Australian citizens subjected to mistreatment by foreign powers
    Oppose secret detention, torture and mistreatment
    Oppose the death penalty and support campaigns for its abolition
    Support a Bill of Rights.

    Caring for Communities

    The Greens will:

    Repeal the punitive assessment and work requirements in the Welfare to Work Act
    Develop, implement and monitor a plan to eradicate poverty in Australia
    Simplify pensions and allowances into a universal guaranteed adequate income scheme
    Support disadvantaged individuals and communities through improved public health, housing, education and transport
    Ensure access to education and training, with a focus on areas of emerging need
    Increase disability support payments, services and assistance to family carers.

    That is just a snapshot obviously, but a lot of the reasoning behind these would seem to be on par with the ideals Jesus left us – ie eradication of poverty etc.

    So I raise the point – even if the ideas are not religiously motivated, but do fit with Christian ethos, does that mean they are not valid?

  10. Yeah – the “land rights for gay whales” faction, the atheist faction, the hippy faction, the pot smoking faction, the tree planting faction, and the communist faction.

    I hope that’s not the style of debate you are going for in the article Nathan, because it kinda lacks credibility.

    But this is from a illiterate, ill-educated, backward, oppressed, sexually frustrated Christian woman, if you went by the outside criteria I get judged on.

    1. Here’s the article so far… very drafty and written between bits of actual work today.

      “Remember the catchphrase: “That’s not “green”, that’s extreme…”? Family First championed that line during the 2004 Federal Government election campaign. Widely respected Christian politician John Anderson once described the Greens as a watermelon – green on the outside, but with a dark red underbelly. Can Christians truly and meaningfully engage with the Greens? Is engaging with the Greens the only way to have any environmentally significant “political” input?

      Christian objections to the Greens party are often based on a mix of personal political convictions and a disquiet regarding some of their policies from a Biblical standpoint. But does this mean other Christians can’t be Greens members? Or Greens candidates? By no means.

      An Australian Christian Lobby media release issued prior to the 2008 election praised the Greens Party for its strong stance on climate change, refugees, overseas aid, work life balance and poverty. These are important issues – and should be serious concerns for Biblical Christians.

      But John Anderson had a point – the Greens may position themselves as the environmental party – but that’s just a label, a point of difference. One issue parties – like the fishing party, or Queensland’s “Daylight Savings Party” don’t even take themselves seriously – and don’t expect voters to either. You can’t position yourself as a potential alternative government without a diverse policy platform. Scratch the green surface off and you’re left with positions the conservative Christian orthodoxy, reportedly represented by Family First, would consider “extreme”. They score badly on all the conservative touchstones – they’re pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, soft on drugs, soft on censorship, and they want the Lord’s prayer removed from the parliamentary schedule. By all accounts are a product of a “secular humanist” ideology driven by a frustration with our Judaeo-Christian society.

      As Christians we have great freedom – particularly living in a liberal democracy – to vote for whomever we choose. No party has a monopoly on God – though many claim it.

      The criteria that determine an individual’s political preference will come down to personal convictions – should caring for the poor be the government’s concern or the church’s? Should we impose a Christian ethical framework on others? Can we vote for a party that purposefully pursues the termination of the lives of unborn children? Just how much of a concern is the environment?

      For many Christians the decision will rest solely on the abortion issue – many feel passionately enough about that debate to cast a single issue vote.

      It’s possible to be both a Christian and a Greens Party candidate. While adhering to a party’s chosen political platform is an important notion in a representative system of Government – where the voter reasonably expects their candidate to toe a party line – the idea of there being overwhelming consensus within a party room on any given issue is naive to say the least.”

    2. I have actually trolled through their policies and constitution. As far as I can tell abortion is going to be the big Christian sticking point.

  11. Also, comments like that are make it almost impossible to reach people with the Christian message. That is exactly the sort of thing that convinces them we have no relevance to the modern world and a just plain bigoted.

    1. Some say bigoted, others say different – the beauty of a democracy is I can respect the Green’s right to exist without voting for them.

      Why shouldn’t I be allowed to disagree with someone else and express that? And why should Miss California miss out on the Miss World US title for being personally opposed to gay marriage? It’s the bigotry labels that belie a fundamental intolerance of Christianity from those spruiking tolerance and inclusion.

      I would say my list of factions was pretty accurate when it comes to the Green’s constituency, and I think it’s possible to be a Christian and some of those things – they’re not mutually exclusive. Except for the atheism one.

  12. Note also:
    conservative touchstones.

    Perhaps there is a need to be more specific in your article, and talk about conservative Christians and the Greens, as opposed to Christians.

    1. I plan to point out that being “conservative” is a political stance rather than a Christian one, and our local Greens candidate is a Christian, albeit an airy fairy one – and I’m hoping to interview her. And some other Christian friends who are big social justice activists.

    2. Plus that paragraph was purely a direct comparison with the earlier one that pointed out their social justice strengths.

      And re abortion – it’s legal with nominally strict (but somewhat unenforced) limits, the Greens want it to be legal, safe and unlimited.

  13. I would also point out that abortion being the issue with the Greens in particular is problematic, given it is currently legal and has been legal in this country when run by both the Liberals and Labor. So I am not sure that if that is the sticking point for you that you can clear the other parties as well.

  14. It’s the bigotry labels that belie a fundamental intolerance of Christianity from those spruiking tolerance and inclusion.

    It may be an intolerance of Christianity from many years of Christianity’s intolerance of them.

    I would say my list of factions was pretty accurate when it comes to the Green’s constituency, and I think it’s possible to be a Christian and some of those things – they’re not mutually exclusive. Except for the atheism one.

    I have great sympathy for atheists actually. At least they have picked a position and justified it, and the majority are quite willing to deal with the consequences. Unlike the people who call themselves Christian because they were Christened at 3 months old (don’t laugh, I know a few of these) and never thought about it again.

    Also, you forgot the constituency who are angered at the arrogance of the main parties and think that power shouldn’t be dominated by a patsy of big business and a patsy of the unions respectively. I think this might be the biggest group of all.

    1. I agree on the atheists thing. It just makes me sad when they “evangelise” and essentially offer nothing, no hope – and their intolerance of “religion” and the religious also irks me.

      I know Christians (and particularly the nominal variety) have done terrible things but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the bad things aren’t exactly consistent with a robust intellectual understanding of the Bible – or any reading of the Bible in context. You know, the fact that Jesus came after the Old Testament and the OT law was specifically for Israel – not for us to go throwing around willy nilly.

      Feel free to suggest more topics.

      That’d be the biggest group of voters – but I doubt it’s the biggest group of party members. This article, at least in my mind, is more about “involvement” in party life and engaging with the policy than voting at the ballot. The disenfranchised are unlikely to know that the Greens stand for anything but their environmental cause.

  15. The disenfranchised are unlikely to know that the Greens stand for anything but their environmental cause.

    That is true, but true for all the other parties as well. It still astounds me how little interest people show in the political life of Australia – don’t think at all about the people that are making decisions for them until they get into the ballot box. An argument for non-compulsory voting perhaps.

    I know Christians (and particularly the nominal variety) have done terrible things but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the bad things aren’t exactly consistent with a robust intellectual understanding of the Bible – or any reading of the Bible in context. You know, the fact that Jesus came after the Old Testament and the OT law was specifically for Israel – not for us to go throwing around willy nilly.

    The issue here being people being angry at God for what people have done in His name. Probably the biggest problem any of us face reaching out to non-Christians.

    And of course the problem of those getting the publicity are usually the ones that are dubious theology-wise.

  16. I would really like to be interested in politics. I really would. But, when I get yet another letter back from a politician containing regurgitated party policy, which is what I was complaining about in the first place, I feel somewhat disenfranchised.

  17. So, I don’t blame people for not taking interest. Or for not knowing what parties stand for. Election campaigns always seem to be based on a handful of current issues, and the opposition, especially the current one, always seems to just be opposed to what the government says.

  18. I would really like to be interested in politics. I really would. But, when I get yet another letter back from a politician containing regurgitated party policy, which is what I was complaining about in the first place, I feel somewhat disenfranchised.

    But I am guessing that you do actually go into the polling booth and have an idea of who you are voting for and why – not just going in and numbering from top to bottom like some people I know. That is the sort of thing that worries me.

  19. Amy- Salt magazine is aimed at the Australian evangelical student community, most of whom are conservative. Taking into context the audience, it’s safe enough to make it a given that “Christians” are conservative (in this article).

  20. Hmm, I’m going for the picky spelling bit now and pointing out that in the last paragraph it should be ‘tow’ and not ‘toe’. I’m sure you would’ve picked it up, but it shows that I was paying attention.

    I may be showing my naivety here but haven’t all three of the main political parties taken the ‘God’ out of the picture?

    I do agree with the disenchantment with politics – I keep going in phases where I follow it and then get disheartened at the cheap/silly/obvious tactics for the short term gain not the long term work/picture. But in this aspect I like the greens party better – much less silly positioning and more long-term and socially directed policy. Or maybe they just don’t get the airtime so I don’t hear about it. Either way better for me.

    I suppose I base my opinion on the ones that best reflect my views and the greens do that for me. Plus they get the benefit of being one of the few parties who maintain a strong and consistent direction.
    I hold no doubts that this would change over time if they actually gained power, but in pushing the other two parties towards what I think is the better viewpoint I’m all for them.

    1. The question is not about the other political parties – but whether the Greens are by definition anti-Christian, or not something Christians should be supporting. I would posit that at the very least one of the fundamental problems with the green movement is an idolatrous view of creation. Where those who do wrong by the earth are essentially heretics worthy of eco-friendly stake burnings. Low emission burnings. Perhaps crucifixion.

  21. Salt magazine’s doctrinal basis as I read it neither leans to either a conservative or radical direction – so I don’t see that assumptions that Christians reading it are necessarily conservative.

    If it is read mostly by conservatives, don’t the minority who are not also deserve a voice?

    I would also presume it would be used as an outreach tool towards non-believers, and I don’t think that they will be aware of that assumption.

    1. It’s more a journal for evangelical Christians than a tool for evangelism – but I think it needs to be robust, objective, honest and biblically faithful.

  22. I thought ‘toe’ was correct. Keeping your feet behind the correct line as to not stray from the acceptable position.

    (a quick google just confirmed that, and obviously everything on the internet is true)

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