Saturday, November 24, 2007


The election of Kevin Rudd as the next Australian premier raises interesting issues for Christian engagement in politics, both Down Under and more widely. The new Prime Minister, raised a Catholic and now an Anglican, has identified with the more radical and progressive social tradition within Christianity overall. However he has also affirmed a secular polity, strongly criticised the religious right, and said that the churches' role is to pressure governance in the direction of all-encompassing social justice rather than to adopt narrow or partisan perspectives. But he personally opposes gay marriage.

Nevertheless Rudd has been accused of 'God-bothering' by some secularists and of 'dog-whistling' for religious votes by conservative politicians. Is his stance post-Christendom, or part of what might be called the left-wing of an essentially Christendom outlook? I will be interested to see what Anabaptist and other friends in Australian make of Kevin Rudd. There are interviews with him here (Vortex of vision and a Sydney Morning Herald article: It's time to fight for the true Christian principle of compassion).

His own direct comment on the issue of Christianity and politics on The Monthly last year was as follows: "A Christian perspective on contemporary policy debates may not prevail. It must nonetheless be argued. And once heard, it must be weighed, together with other arguments from different philosophical traditions, in a fully contestable secular polity. A Christian perspective, informed by a social gospel or Christian socialist tradition, should not be rejected contemptuously by secular politicians as if these views are an unwelcome intrusion into the political sphere. If the churches are barred from participating in the great debates about the values that ultimately underpin our society, our economy and our polity, then we have reached a very strange place indeed." (See the summary, Faith in Politics).

Among the issues he has cited were WorkChoices legislation, climate change, global poverty, therapeutic cloning and asylum seekers.

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