CultureWatch

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Christian Character and Political Leaders

Apr 4, 2009

It appears our Prime Minister is at it again, this time driving a female flight attendant to tears. Our PM, who pushed his Christian credentials quite hard prior to the election, seems to talk one way and walk another way. In this case, Kevin Rudd did not get the food he wanted on an RAAF plane, so he threw a hissy fit and proceeded to blast the female food server.

Reducing a lass to tears is not the only unkind and unchristian activity our PM is guilty of. Two articles in today’s press highlight a regular pattern of him treating people very poorly indeed. It seems our PM is a serial offender when it comes to condescending, disrespectful and bullying behaviour.

One article notes the alarming turnover rate for Rudd staffers. It seems he is just not a very pleasant chap to work for: “Kevin Rudd’s short fuse and unreasonable demands have triggered an exodus of personal staff and a backlash from public servants. His staff turnover is about to reach 16, or one a month since winning office.”

The article continues: “Labor staffers – even those who have left the PM’s office – are reluctant to speak out about their boss. But some are privately critical of Mr Rudd’s management style. ‘He never gives positive feedback and gets angry very easily,’ said one. A former senior Rudd staffer described his old boss as intolerant and socially dysfunctional.”

In another article Laurie Oakes asks whether this is “the same bloke who ordered backbencher Belinda Neal to undergo anger management counselling? Apparently so.” It seems that “there are two Rudds – the bright, cheerful Kevin that viewers of Seven Network’s Sunrise program came to know, and a darker, more aggressive, less likeable figure the public does not get to see. According to a Rudd admirer who nevertheless has few illusions about the bloke: ‘He just doesn’t have a good bedside manner. You’d never employ him in human resources’.”

Oakes continues, “Cabinet colleagues, Labor MPs and government staffers have no shortage of stories about the PM’s temper and colourful use of expletives. A close Rudd associate once told a friend of mine: ‘One day, something will happen and it will all come undone. All it will take is for someone to spill coffee on him when he thinks there are no cameras there.’ Another person who knows Rudd well says: ‘It’s one thing to be cranky, but he can be cruel. And that doesn’t sit well with his strong Christian principles’.”

Will the real KR please stand up?

Mr Rudd won the Federal election in part by making the pitch that he is a committed Christian. He managed to get many believers to vote for him. But plenty of his policies since taking office have been decidedly not very Christian. And it is becoming clear that his behaviour leaves a lot to be desired as well.

Worse still, it seems that every time he gets caught out doing some quite unchristian things, he comes up with these weasel words: ‘I’m only human’ and ‘No one’s perfect’. Puh-leeeese, spare us already. These are just tired excuses which are used to cover a multitude of sins. And they are meaningless. Of course no one is perfect. That is about as helpful as saying no one is twenty feet tall.

These lousy excuses are fine for non-Christians. But they just don’t cut it for genuine Christians. We are people who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, filled with His Spirit, and born again in order to live a new sort of life. Sure, we do not become perfect, and of course we will continue to make mistakes. But God is in the business of transforming lives.

He is not interested in our paltry excuses, but is determined to remake us into his image. Of course that is a life-long process. But at the end of the day the Christian walk has got to match the Christian talk. It seems slowly but surely that the real Kevin Rudd is coming to light. While he may be pictured each Sunday strolling out of church, a real test of his faith is how he treats people – especially subordinates.

At the moment his track record is not looking too good. But instead of making hollow excuses, he could start to be a bit more biblical here: he could ask for forgiveness, demonstrate a bit of humility, and seek some divine help. His excuses may placate some in the mainstream media, but he claims to serve the one who said, “Be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect”.

That does not mean that we will attain sinless perfection in this life, but with God’s grace we will be making noticeable improvements. The goal of the Christian life, after all, is to be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29).

We are told to pray for our leaders and that we must do. But our PM needs to work on getting his talk in alignment with his walk. While that is something we all need to heed, it is certainly something we can pray for him as well.

While we are all capable of real failure, and while we all need to grow in grace, we do have an obligation to exhort one another and spur one another on to greater heights in our Lord. So let us all press on to be what God intends us to be in Christ.

www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25286608-662,00.html
www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25286571-5000117,00.html

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28 Responses to Christian Character and Political Leaders

  • Please be careful Bill, by the standards you judge another, you will be judged. I understood Kevin not only apologised but apologised repeatedly for his latest outburst.

    Maybe you are free from anger and you never explode when things go wrong but many, many christians are not that way. They may hide it more successfully than Kevin, who is in the spotlight.

    It will be Father saying “Hey Kevin, that is just an excuse” that Kevin will one day hear and then will realise he has to change. It can’t be forced on him by our opinion of what a christian is or isn’t.

    Max Stam

  • I think this is a storm in a teacup – a beatup. Why don’t you just come right out and say that you don’t like him.
    Shane White

  • Thanks Max

    You seem to misunderstand the biblical notion of judging, which I have discussed elsewhere: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/08/thou-shalt-judge/

    Also, the NT offers dozens of commands for believers to hold one another up to the highest of standards. Need I recite them all here?

    And you miss the point of the article. Even secular journalists can see the hypocrisy and double-standards in Rudd. Why can’t we? What was it that Jesus said about the children of this world being wiser than the children of light?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Shane

    Why don’t you just come right out and say that you like him.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • All aspects of character of people in public office have to be known and be made known as we vote for them not only on the basis of their ability but more importantly their character. After all, in our system of government, the public relies much on the elected person’s character traits such as integrity and honesty in discharging their duties. Doesn’t their oath of office say so?
    Anyone can slip now and again, but if it is a pattern of behaviour, as it seems to be in this case, then it is appropriate to ask if this is the same man who paraded his Christian credentials for our vote to be the PM of this country. We need to know as he will be seeking re-election again.
    Abraham Varughese

  • Thanks Abraham

    It is interesting that the only real test for political office offered by the Founding Fathers of America was that of character. Character counts, and of all people, Christians should see this as a real priority. But the spirit of the age says we should never judge, tolerate everything, and embrace mediocrity instead of excellence. Paul said we should follow him as he follows Christ. That is a pretty high standard to hold up. But that is what we are called to pursue.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, Max and Shane,

    As a family we are reading an excellent book on restoring family relationships (mainly among siblings, but it’s more than that). It’s called “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends”.

    Just this week we were in the chapter on forgiveness and saying sorry.

    It lists five ways to NOT say sorry, but SOUND AS IF you are:
    a) I was wrong, but you were wrong, too.
    b) If I was wrong, I’m sorry.
    c) Since you get offended so easily, I guess I’ll have to ask for your forgiveness.
    d) Sorry.
    e) It wasn’t my fault, but I’m sorry you got hurt.

    All of them are ways to deny personal responsibility for one’s actions.

    Our PM definitely said b) in public when challenged, but recall that he also said “I’m only human” – option e).

    His personal Press Secretary Lachlan Harris initially denied that the event had even occurred, and the PM’s own statement explains that he made light of it originally.

    And option d) (as if just saying the word fixes the relationship) applies to the famous “Sorry Day” in Parliament where no compensation was forthcoming, and no change in official behaviour was implemented – ie. there is nothing of the Christian concept of restitution.

    The questions about his character are mounting.

    Whether Mr Rudd is a Christian is a question of celestial fact. But if he is, then his behaviour is a demonstration of a bad Christian – as CS Lewis defined it. And I find Mr Rudd’s behaviour a distinct embarrassment, and a very bad witness.

    John Angelico

  • The age in which we live judges people by the following. Are they 21st or even 22nd century, adult, modern, progressive, tolerant, inclusive, non-discriminatory, egalitarian, libertarian, broad minded, non-judgemental, left-wing, green and so and so on?

    But no one ever asks whether our children are becoming more mature, courageous, meek, righteous, pure in heart and mind, faithful, trustworthy, responsible, patient, caring, forgiving, forbearing – in a word, people of integrity – like Christ. These count for nothing; they are considered goody – goody and wimpish.

    Philippians chapter 2 more less says is it all with regard to our Servant King, Jesus Christ, and also has these words, “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

    Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 also says: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    David Skinner, UK

  • Surely the point is that we expect our leaders to set an example. They are role models and because they are in the limelight they have a double responsibility. We hear many people say that we should allow our leaders to keep their lives private, that what they do in private bears no influence on their public performance.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/2456091/Max-Mosley-orgy-ruling-The-scandals-that-would-have-remained-unexposed.html

    David Skinner, UK

  • Bill, from personal experience, I’d say that KR has a few serious skeletons in his closet.

    Not saying with any certainty that this is a direct reflection on his character, but his insecurity reminds me very much of the kind of outbursts of unreasonable criticism I experienced from a liar I had to share many years with.

    I suspect that a highly applicable semi-slang term is “control freak.” In more technical terms, OCPD is more precise, but may be a little wide of the mark.

    I have no professional qualifications behind these opinions, simply personal experience.

    Leon Brooks

  • But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. (Matthew 15:18)
    Phil Twiss

  • I’m afraid that I have the same human weaknesses as Kevin Rudd; that I’m not peprfect, just forgiven. However the tantrums that Mr Rudd has allegedly made are not in keeping with Christian character, answer Max and Shane.
    I could not imagine John Curtin or Ben Chifley, Menzies, Fraser, Hawke or Howard carrying on like this. Perhaps it is a sense of insecurity from Rudd’s tough childhood that is still there, in which case he needs to present it to the Physician in Chief.
    Wayne Pelling

  • The irony is that none of the above named PMs publicised their Christianity, if they were Christians.
    Curtin followed Moral Re-Armanent, was born Catholic and had attended the Sallies in Brunswick.
    Chifley was Catholic.
    Menzies and Fraser were brought up Pressies.
    Hawke was a son of a liberal Congregationalist minister.
    Wayne Pelling

  • Hi Bill
    I don’t necessarily like him. He’s just less annoying than some. I just think this is a minor issue, and we don’t have all of the facts.

    Shane White

  • I notice the Labor voters rushing in makng excuses for Kevin Rudd, just like the media did, prior to the election. Your article Bill was not only accurate, but from what I know of his bad manners, you went a bit easy on him. Just take note of Rudd’s miserable excuse. He couldn’t even say that he was wrong – he said “If anyone were offended” as if there is some sort of doubt about his obnoxious behaviour, making it a matter of opinion. Also I’m sick and tired of hearing about his difficult childhood. I lost my father, who died when I was ten years old. I was the youngest of 5 children, brought up on a widow’s pension. We didn’t have any luxuries, I didn’t even own a bike, but I had friends, a loving family and had a happy life and was none the worse for my experiences.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • John Howard would go down to the back of his VIP jet and chat with the staff and Federal Poloice. Kevin Rudd does not find time to do so.
    Australia – you have the PM you voted for!
    Stephen White

  • Thanks Shane

    If we don’t have all the facts it is because Rudd is keeping them from us. That is also annoying.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The fact that Rudd is so different to his public image should be a huge concern to us. The benign, smiling, benevolent, Christian family man with a sniping, cruel dark side doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an open, what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of person you want to see in a leader. I have to wonder exactly what else this man is hiding.
    Dee Graf

  • Remember the exchange caught on tape that went something like this? –

    Man in the crowd: Mr Rudd, are you a born again Christian?

    Mr Rudd: Well, I go to church.

    Perhaps this was one of the few honest answers he has given concerning his faith.

    Ewan McDonald

  • A couple of thoughts come to mind from this article
    1)Jesus said we will know them by the fruit in their lives.

    2)Jesus also showed all of us how to truly live by being servants.

    May we all pray that the penny drops for Kevin!

    Michael Bourke

  • Last week GordoN Brown commented about Rudd’s article on Bonhoffer. I wonder if Rudd remembers the first two lines of a hymn Bonhoffer – executed 64 years ago this thursday 9/4/09 – wrote:
    Men go to God,
    When they are sorely pressed.
    Instead he goes to the Press secretary.
    Wayne Pelling

  • So this is meant to achieve what exactly? We should be pleased we have a Christian in the highest office, and not a marxist humanist. Pulling him down and berating him seems to be a rather odd thing to do, when you all spend so much of your time complaining about the lack of Christian-ness in all things political. We should PRAY FOR HIM. God wants us to; 1 Timothy 2:1-3.

    You would all defend John Howard to hilt if something came out like this about him. You would all claim that the MSM were overblowing the story. Obviously the MSM haven’t overdone it here, though. No. Of course not. Because you don’t like Kevin Rudd, they must be on the money here. I would say you’re being selective.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • Thanks Simon

    Of course had you actually read the article, you would have seen that I did indeed say that we should pray for Rudd. But if a PM keeps claiming to be a Christian yet acts quite differently – in behaviour and policy – why is that something to be pleased about? Indeed, it can be argued that some of his policies are not that different from the marxist humanists.

    It seems you have been happy in the past on this site to bash Howard over matters of equal gravity. And Howard of course never paraded his Christianity all around as Rudd has done. So all you have done here is to inform us that you are a person of the left. Fine. So I would say you’re being selective.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I don’t think you have understood. I did, in fact, read the article. I read it, and didnt agree. It seems you were in quite a huff, Bill, when you responded.

    You, and some of my fellow commentators, are the ones under question here – I have simply brought up the question of how selective your use of the MSM is, and questioned where the heart of the matter is: is it Jesus, or is it Politics? You will probably say that I should ask that question of Rudd. I think we should all ask that question every-so-often. Some of the commentators I criticise here seem more interested in politics, and they tack Jesus on the end for good measure, when it should be the other way around. That is not Christian politics.

    To say I have bashed Howard in the past on matters of “equal gravity” is somewhat odd; I have, in the past, asked questions of his economic policies, or his government’s decisions over IR or military action. The gravity of those questions is much, much greater than the matter this article is about. That is partly my point in emphasising that we should pray for Rudd (which you indeed suggested), instead of tearing him down. Focus on the issues that are really important, instead of an out-of-proportion story about a tiff on a plane.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • When it comes to politicians, what matters is not what one calls themselves but rather what policies they actually support. I would rather a Prime Minister who claimed to be an atheist but who governed like a Christian than to have one who claims to be a Christian but who governs like a secular humanist.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Thanks Simon

    Do some Christians on the right put politics before faith? Sometimes. Do some Christians on the left put politics before faith? Sometimes. The fact that you have been quite pleased in the past to regularly bash Howard, but here seem only interested in defending Rudd rather than holding him up to high Christian standards would indicate that you are equally happy to elevate politics above faith.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, you haven’t addressed all of the concerns I have raised; what about your selective use of the MSM? When you do address the concern I have about faith and politics, you give a very unsatisfactory answer. A sweeping statement along the lines of “Everyone does it anyway”, and “You did it too!” is not especially compelling, This is merely a evasion technique and doesn’t answer the question at all.

    You assume that I am defending Rudd. I haven’t even given my opinion on the matter, bar that I think it isn’t very important. I haven’t defended his actions at all. I am not even interested in doing that, because there are clearly no grounds for defence – he made some mistakes, and that is very clear. I will defend and criticise when the issues at hand warrant it. This is not such an instance.

    Simon Kennedy

  • Thanks Simon

    I think I am addressing your concerns. But we might have to agree to disagree on this one.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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