Churches pray for terrorist and ignore a businessman
I keep waiting for the traditional church to launch its campaign against the government’s treatment of boat people.
After all, boats carrying asylum seekers keep entering Australian waters in greater numbers, there are allegations that boats are left to drift and, worst of all, some have perished along the way.
I glance skyward in Melbourne, looking for the immense banner hanging from the spire St Paul’s Cathedral, like there was a few years ago. Instead of “Justice for David Hicks”, it will read “Justice for SIEV 624”.
“Excising islands and placing boat people in New Guinea and Nauru and so removing them from access to the Australian legal system was too clever and inhuman. Have we no sense of shame as a nation?” asked the Most Reverend Peter R Watson, then the Archbishop of Melbourne in 2004.
Surely Rev Watson, or his successor Dr Philip Freier, who defended the “Justice for David Hicks” banner, will be out of the blocks soon to criticise the fact that boatpeople are dying and to demonstrate the traditional church’s deep adherence to social justice is non-partisan.
Or how about this for something really radical, seeing as the Melbourne Anglicans felt that a self professed terrorist needed support because he was held without charge: “Justice for Stern Hu.”
I’m not going to swing by the neck waiting.
The point of this column is not to state the obvious. That the social justice wing of the traditional church is infected with Left-wing activists, many of whom would be agnostics at best or atheists at worst is well known and well documented.
And it’s not to have a crack at the social justice agenda or the people deeply committed to making their society or community a better place. And it’s not to make the argument that the church should never involve itself in politics. That would be ridiculous.
Rather it’s to expose how the traditional church is ushering itself to irrelevance.
I write this in the full knowledge that the church has made a big difference for the better on some big political issues, the abolition of slavery for one.
But on some issues, the church has no business pushing any position. It does not have policy expertise to do so. It’s trenchant opposition to the GST, for instance, proved that.
And there’s a big difference between slavery and garden variety political issues of the type that the church involves itself with more and more these days.
Stop globalisation rally, the church will be there. Walk against the G8 Summit, the church will be represented—along with every other activist group and ratbag anarchist.
Leaked union documents before the last election showed the ACTU had a deliberate strategy to infiltrate churches in a bid to get them to push a pro-union message.
And, of course, the church did.
Is the church the winner in any of this? Not if you count numbers, it isn’t.
While traditional church leaders might get a thrill out of seeing themselves in newspapers commenting on “cutting edge issues”, the sad reality is that people are staying away in droves.
This makes sense because other organizations are better equipped to run political campaigns.
If you want liberal policies and political campaigns, you go to the Greens website, not waste your Sunday morning on a Uniting Church pew listening to environmental policy.
The Greens don’t bother with rhetoric about saving souls on the way to figuring out how to save a tree.
So in persistent advocacy of secular issues, the church has willingly allowed itself to become no different to most of the other voices across the Left of the political spectrum.
And that means that, in the political cacophony, it carries a diminished voice, because it has no specific expertise, no particular skill set with which to argue its case.
And then, of course, the traditional church can’t even agree on its social agenda.
In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury can be found arguing for the introduction of Sharia law in support for multiculturalism, which has outraged a good percentage of the congregation. This comes as the church fights a bitter public war over gay ordination.
And all this is underscored by a persistent debate among certain clergy about whether God actually exists anyway.
The retiring Bishop of Rochester, Dr Nazir-Ali traces the decline of the church in Britain back to the 1960s when there was a steep decline in Christian worship.
Marxist students encouraged a “social and sexual revolution” to which liberal theologians and Church leaders “all but capitulated,” he says.
“It is this situation that has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves. While the Christian consensus was dissolved, nothing else, except perhaps endless self-indulgence, was put in its place.”
As a person of faith who holds a deep interest in politics, I think it is in our nation’s interest for the church to help fill the moral and spiritual vacuum. And there are a great many churches out there doing just that.
But if the traditional church is to succeed, it must get back to doing what it does best, delivering a spiritual message, not attempting to replicate a Left-of-centre political party or Greenpeace.
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