Out of hospital, appeared to have survived temporarily. Our stays on planet earth are temporary. Thanks by the way to those who sent their best wishes in their comments on my last piece. Unexpected. Greatly appreciated.
My Anglican minister, who visited me, asked whether I would like to be included in prayers in the upcoming Sunday service. Definitely I said. We need God’s help, sick or well. For my part, I hobbled to a chapel on the hospital grounds at which a Mass is held each Sunday at 4 pm. The priest welcomed me, notwithstanding my Anglican affiliation. I followed the service as best I could, which was well attended by people obviously experienced in the order of service and responses. Mumbling got me by when all else failed.
Where is this going, you might ask. It’s going to how we apply Christian faith to decision making. Those of you who are not Christian are not really left out. Certainly those brought up in Australia, or in western countries more generally, are inheritors of Christian traditions and values which, implicitly, if not explicitly, beneficially mould and guide thinking.
The decision in question is the Voice. The Voice aims to give those who have some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry an additional say in the design and implementation of laws which bear on those with such ancestral links. There are a number of practical and conceptual difficulties with this proposal, which I’ll get to first before trying to apply a Christian perspective.
First, all Australians tend to be affected to some extent by all laws. True, laws often fall more heavily on one cohort than another. Pension-related laws on older people, for example. But we all get old eventually. And taxpayers young and old must foot the bill for pension increases. In other words, most legislation bears on us all to one extent or another. Thus the legitimate ambit of the Voice is not at all clear. And, depending on how it is legislated, how it sees itself operating, how from time to time the High Court sees it operating, it could well operate sparingly at one point in time and very expansively at another. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to put a shapeshifting entity into the Constitution.
Second, it’s not clear who the Voice representatives will actually represent. There will be no voting. It would be too difficult (as I explain here) to determine who is sufficiently indigenous to earn a vote. Voice representatives will ‘emerge’. How on earth are they to reflect the different views and perspectives of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people facing starkly different circumstances? That’s a problem for all parliamentarians, you might say. Yes it is. But they have to subject themselves to votes of their constituents. It’s an imperfect process but a process which informs and disciplines representation. Who informs and disciplines Voice representatives?
Third, on its face, it is anomalous and discriminatory that any section of the population should obtain constitutional status and privileges denied to others. Laws apply differentially. That’s true. Aboriginal Australians are already eligible for benefits and preferment not available to others. Whatever the right and wrongs of that, it is not constitutionally enshrined. That’s important. It means that as circumstances change, applicable laws can potentially change. Look at it the other way. Preferment in the constitution is tantamount to assuming that the cohort in question will always need help. It is paternalistic. Analogous to the crippling effect of permanent sit-down money.
What is a Christian to make of it? There is no shortage of priests in support. Game set and match. Not so fast. Opposition to the “enlightened” views of Pope Francis in the Catholic Church and the schism in the worldwide Anglican communion point to deep divisions at the heart of faith. I’ll focus on Anglicanism. The breakaway group GAFCON (the Global Anglican Futures Conference) was joined in August last year by a group of Australian clergymen, in forming the Diocese of the Southern Cross. Former Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies is its first Bishop. I covered it here. What’s It all about? The issue is the authority and relevance of the Bible in today’s Christian world.
The belief of those who’ve broken away is that the Bible is the sole, defining and immutable authority on which Christianity is based. It anchors the faith. It is the faith. It can’t be remodelled to suit prevailing fashions or lifestyles. It is tremendously inconvenient. It’s fair to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which he convenes, representing the established Church, is not as wedded to a literal reading of the Bible.
Let me give my view of the difference. One follows God’s law so far as it can be determined from the Bible. The other panders to fashion. The latter is a feel good religion. “Who am I to judge,” the Pope said of homosexuals within the Church. True, Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. We should all avoid judging other people. But there is ample biblical authority to condemn fornication. Perhaps the Pope should have juxtaposed his remarks about judging other people with a clear statement about the rights and wrongs of particular sexual behaviour. Then, that wouldn’t have been de rigueur, would it?
The lax approach to human sexuality finds expression across other aspects of modern life. A pale milquetoast imitation of Christianity is applied to undermine efforts to protect Judeo-Christian civilisation. Apparently we have to be doormats to be Christian. Meekly accepting every offence; every assault. That misunderstands Christianity. It is not following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. E.g., at judgement day: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”( Matthew 25:41, KJV) Not so cuddly and appeasing. An educated guess. There will be a one-to-one correspondence between milquetoast priests and support for the Voice.
To cut to the chase, a biblically-based Christian (the only anchored kind) would perhaps consider Galatians 3:28 as being definitive on the matter of the Voice.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female [there is neither Aboriginal nor non-Aboriginal]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (KJV)
I took the liberty of including a square bracketed insertion to make the point, without harm at all to the substance of the original. QED