Our Leaders Need to Walk the Talk

Here is the scenario: a politician seeks to woo the Christian community to get elected. Once elected, he engages in various actions which are far from Christian. He refuses to apologise for these actions, all the while happily allowing himself to be filmed leaving houses of worship on a regular basis.

I refer of course to Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He knew before the last election that he especially had to target evangelical Christians to get into office. So he made a lot of evangelical noises, hoping to win their confidence. The strategy worked, as he went on to win the election.

Since then he has an unfortunate record of less than Christian actions. Most recently he let loose with the F word on numerous occasions as he addressed Labor Party members in his office, with women included in the audience. Among other things he said the following to the MPs: “I don’t care what you f—ers think!”
He then singled out one Senator with these words, “you can get f—ed” and “don’t you f—ing understand?”.

He is now in New York and he was just seen on the morning news leaving a church with his wife, smiling in his angelic fashion, again seeking to convey the image of the mild mannered nice guy. There is a word for all this. It begins with ‘h’ and ends with ‘ypocrisy’. Double standards is another phrase that comes to mind. Not walking the talk is another.

Now everyone slips up on occasion. We all lose it once in a while. That is indeed to be human. But those who claim to be Christian do not – or should not – let things stop there. The next obvious step is to simply acknowledge one’s wrongs, or sins, and ask for forgiveness, both from God and any offended parties.

That is how one makes progress in the Christian life. It begins with acknowledging your sins, and seeking, with God’s help, to get mastery over these problem areas. It does not mean sinless perfection, but it does mean being honest with yourself and with God, confessing your sin, and moving on by his grace.

Rudd had exactly that chance just yesterday, but scoffed at it. I witnessed it on a television newscast. When a reporter asked about his outburst, the Prime Minister, with a rather arrogant look on his face, said this: “I make no apology for either the content of my conversation or the robustness with which I expressed my views.”

They were robust alright, and they were also quite rude, crude and unnecessary, especially for someone who tried to convince the electorate of his great Christian credentials. But as I say, Christians are still fallen – although forgiven – and they will likely make mistakes, and fall into sin, on a regular basis. But with God’s help there should be improvement in such areas.

And as mentioned, the first step on turning things around is to acknowledge your wrongdoing and confess it. God has been offended, and often others have been as well. Rudd certainly offended a holy and pure God, and he certainly offended those he was talking to.

Yet this man seems to see absolutely nothing wrong with what he did, nor apparently can he see any incongruity between these and other outbursts and his Christian profession of faith. His behaviour would make more sense if he never did profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But even non-Christians can admit when they are wrong and offer apologies.

Our Prime Minister demanded that the nation apologise to Aboriginals, yet he refuses to do the same for his own obvious offences. And if he thinks his foul-mouthed tirade is nothing to apologise for, then he neither fits the description of one living in civilised society, nor of one claiming to be a disciple of Jesus.

As I said, we all blow it, and often. But for the believer, there is hope of getting better with God’s help. And there is a sure avenue to pursue here: that of repentance and seeking forgiveness. It seems our Prime Minister has become so arrogant and impervious to both civilised and Christian convictions, that he will just happily snub the great majority of Australians.

And no, this is not a case of majoring in minors. Such outbursts appear to have become a regular feature of the way Rudd operates. Admitting that he has a problem here and that he might need some help or counselling would be one fruitful way to proceed. But to arrogantly ignore public concerns, and refuse to even acknowledge any wrongdoing is a mark of someone who scorns public opinion and more importantly, of someone who makes a mockery of his God and his profession of faith.


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32 Replies to “Our Leaders Need to Walk the Talk”

  1. “The strategy worked, as he went on to win the election.”

    I’m not so sure the strategy worked. I’d need to see some evidence that he actually attracted Christian voters. He won the election, but it’s not necessarily the Christians who won it for him.

    Most believers I know have a healthy synicism toward politicians and their expressions of religiosity.

    God bless,
    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park

  2. Thanks Michael

    Research is available to show how much of the Christian vote Labor picked up at the last election. It can be tracked down if you are interested.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Hi Bill,

    Whilst it would please me to see Kevin Rudd acting more like a Christian in his policies and personal behaviour; I would prefer to see the Christians who voted for him at the last election exercising a bit more discernment next time.

    Rudd’s Christian professions were paper thin at best. No wonder atheists think Christians are intellectually deficient if they can just film their man going into a church a few times to have him labelled a Christian. This widespread naivety should be a real embarrassment to the church.

    One way to move forward is for the church to lose its aversion to commenting openly and specifically on politics. I’ve often wondered why ministers who are diligent in incorporating an application section in their sermons then shy away from mentioning anything to do with the application of voting, even close to election times. Surely choosing our leaders is one of the great privileges we have in the Western World and for ministers not to connect the exercise of this privilege to Biblical principles does a great disservice to their flock and the standing of the church at large.

    Mansel Rogerson

  4. If swearing is so robust and a release valve for stress, why is it that the calmest people I know don’t engage in it?

    I see swearing as an exhibition in lack of self-control and something that always drags down the tone of any conversation immediately. Yes, we’re all human, but leaders are held to a higher standard. I went to the footy last Saturday night and was amazed by the language adults think is acceptable within earshot of several children just because they are at the footy. No excuse.

    (If it had continued I might’ve said something, but as Collingwood got busy wobbling pretty early, it was more satisfying to watch one guy in particular go very very quiet.)

    Mark Rabich

  5. Jesus spoke of those who looked like sheep on the outside but were ravenous wolves on the inside. Very dangerous. And Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”
    Tasman Walker

  6. Church vs politics is an interesting conflict.

    The State Church in Europe for many centuries was founded by Constantine for political reasons. The paper-thin attitude ruled then as well (forex, he “baptised” his army by marching them through a river). Their descendents today still meddle in politics.

    A genuine Christian politician should be a Christian whose work happens to be politics, rather than a Christian who hopes to bend politics into a shape which better suits their ideas. By exemplifying the nature of Christ in their attitude & approach, they will beChristianity for onlookers.

    Leon Brooks

  7. Dear Leon,
    “the purpose of human law is to lead men gradually to virtue” [St Thomas II, I, 96, aArt 2, ad 2]. Even virtuous living is not an end in itself, but a means to the attainment of Heaven, thus all temporal life should aid him in pursuit of that. [Thanks to “Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism” Fanfari] Eg. Australia’s iniquitous retail competition laws and their [non-] enforcement, our marriage laws and family laws; these engender an inhuman social and financial environment which genergally has a corrosive effect on healthy family life conducive to the growth of virtue.

    Intelligent, informed, and articulate leadership, cognisant of Christian Social Teaching, with organised support organisation, is an obvious necessity to fight effectively in the public square for man’s ultimate purpose. Naturally, our maximum secular utility is generally best served by the same policies.

    Gerard Flood

  8. Whilst Rudd may have attracted some of the evangelical vote, I doubt that his efforts to gain the evangelical vote was responsible for his victory, though of course every little bit helps.

    Personally, I’m a conservative evangelical and didn’t vote for him.

    Re his Christian profession, I think we do need to acknowledge that he goes to church, seemingly quite regularly (the more liberal catholic version of Anglicanism – I wouldn’t call him an evangelical as I’ve heard some do). He professes Christian faith.

    He is reported having used obscene language and has refused to apologise. I would have liked him to have been asked a question as to the appropriateness of his language for a Christian. We should at the very least remember him in our prayers.

    At the recent ALP Conference the gay lobby and Rainbow Labor were intent on removing marriage from the ALP’s platform, they only failed to achieve their objective through Kevin Rudd’s personal intervention to prevent the matter going to the Conference floor.

    Whilst the words of the platform have changed, as pointed out by others, it remains Labor’s policy to support marriage and any “reforms are to be implemented consistently with Labor’s commitment to maintaining the definition of marriage as currently set out in the Marriage Act.”

    Next time around we may well see a different outcome, certainly so if Rudd is not around or has spent his political capital.

    David Palmer

  9. When Christians are publicly critical of things like using swear words, they need to be clear on what they are doing. They are making public comment on standards of cultural behaviour – the use of swear words. And, for all the good intentions, they may be confusing people. Or simply reaffirming the perception that we are merely moral watchdogs. That is not our prime role.

    Believing the gospel, can, (we should be aware) easily become believing the gospel “plus”. Whether it is “plus circumcision” or, like the pledge made some decades ago, by Methodist Ministers, to preach the gospel “plus… maintain an unswerving hostility towards the liquor trade,” or plus certain moral standards, or dress codes (hats in church), and so on, it is still “the gospel plus”.

    May we remember, that one of the loudest and clearest preachers of the gospel, in history, was Martin Luther. He was rather foul mouthed, at times. Yet he was crystal clear on the message of the gospel. My thoughts on topics like this are, … let us be sure we are preaching ‘mere Christianity’ and not becoming mere moralists. Proceed with caution.

    Trevor Faggotter

  10. Thanks Trevor

    But you might be missing my point. If Luther let loose with a string of profanities, I cannot see him failing to at least acknowledge the wrongness of such actions.

    But the real issue here is this: Rudd professes to be a Christian. Thus this is nothing to do with “mere morality” and everything to do with holding a brother to account. I trust you are not simply ignoring the dozens of biblical admonitions to hold one another accountable, seeking to press on to God’s best, etc. Are we not obliged as believers to encourage one another, and where necessary, rebuke one another? Are we not told by Paul to follow him as he follows Christ? Is not the holiness of God a never-ending standard for all believers? I am not sure we can just throw all that out here.

    This has nothing to do with salvation of course. It has everything to do with holy living, which all believers are enjoined to strive for. It is not about “cultural behaviour” but clear biblical standards for believers. So I am not sure how I am confusing anyone here. I speak as a believer to another who also professes to be a believer (Rudd). If you think profanity and swearing is a non-issue for believers, then I have to agree to disagree with you.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  11. Trevor,

    A Christian follows Christ, not Martin Luther. You’re right that any issue can quickly become the ‘main thing’, so to speak, but maturing in self-control should be recognizable in every Christian, notwithstanding lapses. If Rudd has claimed to be a Christian, he invites biblical scrutiny, especially as a leader. It’s actually not so much his swearing that is a problem, it’s how he views it afterwards.

    He thinks it is robust, I think it is immature, and I can quote any number of verses to back that up.

    Mark Rabich

  12. Bill
    I think our PM needs to acquire a little humility and accept that he gets it wrong occasionally. I have always thought that admitting mistakes once in a while was actually a sign that you know yourself and you are trying to live life as Christians we know we should.
    And this was the man who not so long ago said the conduct of another rendered that person unfit for holding office.
    Well I don’t recall his predecessor letting slip with F…s at all and certainly not as part of his carrying our his role as PM.
    And what happened to the duty to give good example? Is he now saying he does not have that responsibility. He has it as a Christian and he has it as the PM of the country not to let peple think that it is ok to act as a loose cannon.
    David Grace

  13. Hi Bill,

    I did quote from the ALP Conference decision.

    Let us agree pending the next ALP Conference, there is a holding pattern as far as the ALP is concerned. So for small mercies I at least am happy to acknowledge not all is lost as yet. We still have everything to play for, even though we observe the trend towards acceptance of gay marriage in the ALP.

    Also Trevor has a fair point to this extent which I think you acknowledge by drawing a duistinction between salvation and holy living, and that is the matter of adding to the Gospel, so that we end up with moralism.

    Our Lord invited those without sin to cast the first stone with the result that the accusers all sloped off. Therefore I think we need to be cautious in fault finding when we may have some faults of our own, including spiritual pride, a critical judgmental spirit and the like. As I suggested earlier, Rudd may have given a different response had he been questioned on the basis of his Christian profession.

    David Palmer

  14. Thanks David

    But to reiterate, I nowhere said in the article that this has anything to do with salvation. It has everything to do with pressing in on sanctification in the Christian life. I think I said enough times in the article that we all blow it and no one is perfect. However that is not the issue. The point is, the first step in Christian living (just as it is the first step in one’s initial salvation), is to admit you are wrong, and in need of forgiveness. Rudd has made it quite clear that he sees nothing wrong in what he has done – and keeps doing – and needs to offer no apologies and receive no forgiveness. That is the point.

    And even plenty of secular commentators have been taking him to task for his lousy example, his poor leadership, his need for counselling, and so on. Here is just one example: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/kevin-rudds-outburst-was-an-abuse-of-power/story-e6frfhqf-1225777801835
    She rightly calls him a “workplace bully”.

    And I have dealt with the concerns of your last paragraph elsewhere, eg.: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/10/08/thou-shalt-judge/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. Bill, in addition to your 8pm reply, I would add a reference to double standards.

    In the infamous Belinda Neal case (“iguanagate”), the standard applied to a backbencher (anger management course, a dressing down by the leader, possible disqualification from future promotion) is not applied to the leader of the party.

    Prov 30:20 “This is the way of an adulteress: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’

    It’s not the unforgiveable sin, but eventually a heart becomes so hard as to be irretrievable.

    Let’s pray that it doesn’t get to that.

    John Angelico

  16. No excuse may be made for Rudd’s foul mouth. I have it on top authority that this has been par for the course with this boofhead, particularly in female company. He knows he’ll eventually get away with it – the Canberra press gallery are in his tank. Could you imagine John Howard speaking like that? It wouldn’t happen, but if it did, the media would be talking about it in 10 years time. Rudd and Barack Obama are the most transparent and useless people I’ve ever seen in politics. I don’t mean “transparent” as a compliment. So transparent that anyone who voted for him or for Obama is simply not very bright.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  17. Dear Bill,
    We have been deceived since time began. We are a gullible lot. Our voting patterns are no exception. Kevin Rudd is a pharisee of pharisees. All show and no substance – do as I say, not do as I do! Anyway, maybe the Australian people will be smart enough to vote him out at the next election, before our nation becomes so mired in unrighteousness that we will never escape! For my money, we are definitely living and experiencing the end times. Just to make it authentic, we have a huge dust storm here in Sydney today. A woman sitting in the train next to me today mentioned armageddon! Armageddon older I replied!
    Lou d’Alpuget

  18. I would offer a thought. What sort of Churches was Rudd filmed going into and out of ?

    Don’t forget George Tiller was killed at a church he regularly attended. So maybe the problem is not the Rudd professes to be a christian, but more the sorts of “christians” he surrounds himself with.

    Jason Rennie

  19. For all those reading these blogs I want to re-iterate the point that Bill was making, its not so much the bad language but the the lack of apology from Mr Rudd that’s the problem. I have been with my wife in the company of men (strangers) who had been drinking but when they dropped the F word or in fact any other swear word immediately apologised for saying it. If the general public can admit they were out of line surely the PM can.
    Ian Harper

  20. Good one Bill. What really worries me about the PM’s latest outburst is not so much his foul language but that this language was used to intimidate and bully his own Party members. Instead of admitting his lack of control he publicly, and I might add while representing Australia overseas, defended his “robust” language. A mea culpa would have been what his much displayed church going persona required.

    Patti Smith

  21. When a person calls himself a christian, I look to see what he or she does as the Word says “by their fruits you shall know them.”

    It also teaches that our speech should be with all grace. Kevin Rudd either hasn’t discovered this yet or he chooses to ignore it as he chooses to ignore the fact that funding abortion is funding murder.

    As yet I haven’t seen anything that convinces me that he is a christian. Going to church doesn’t make you a christian no more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car.

    I notice that his story is he was a catholic and became an anglican to please his wife, not to please God. No mention of conversion.

    In a forum with christians he evaded giving a direct answer about being born again.

    Until he SHOWS that he is a christian, I am not inclined to believe that he is. I have written to him and told him that I am not impressed with his language as it relfects badly on christianity. I don’t expect a reply as I have sent him nearly 50 emails and have not had one reply.

    Roger Marks

  22. I think swearing can be a form of conformity, of being an insider. When I was a boy my good Methodist mother forbade me to swear and I dutifully obeyed for years. However at school I came under strong pressure to use foul language like others. Eventually I caved in but even then there were words I stubbornly refused to utter. With adulthood I more or less returned to sedate language.

    Foul language can be very aggressive and intimidating. Probably Rudd uses bad language to get his way most of which of course is in private. A man can have worse faults. The main thing to remember is that a nation that foolishly elects a Smiley Face as its leader in the age of the Internet gets the showy emptiness that it deserves.

    John Snowden

  23. What really gets me – and I don’t think anyone has referred to this, here – is the saying of “Oh God!” all the time, and, worse “Oh my God!”. My guess is that the people who say “Oh my God!” don’t actually have a god – unless it’s themselves … If you reserve the word “god” – as I’m sure Bill will agree – for the real God, then the real God will be real to you.
    John Thomas, UK

  24. “Until he SHOWS that he is a christian, I am not inclined to believe that he is.”

    There is an excellent interview with Michael Horton in the September edition of Australian Presbyterian in which Horton is questioned on his newest book, “Christless Christianity”. Horton makes the point that contra the view that believing the Gospel is the easy part of being a Christian (compared to walking the talk), in fact our default position is that of moralism and rejection of the Gospel. Horton goes on to say regarding believers, “(moralism) is the spiritual sewage that has to be flushed out of us every day until we die” (http://ap.org.au/images/2009AP/AP0909.pdf, p4f)

    Whether Rudd is a christian or not, I don’t know, though someone I know, whose opinion I respect, assures me on the basis of conversation with Rudd, that he is.

    What I do know is that it doesn’t matter what I believe about Rudd’s status as a Christian, what matters is God’s verdict.

    As a believer I am glad that my acceptance with God depends solely on the doing and dying of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and not upon who I am, what I say or do. If it did, I know I would be in deep trouble.

    This thread is full of condemnation for Rudd. Personally, I am grateful that Rudd, however deeply flawed as a Christian he might be, is nevertheless our Prime Minister and not some Hulls like clone which we might have got, or still may get if Rudd falls over.

    David Palmer

  25. Thanks David

    But with all due respect, you continue to miss the point. Yes, we are saved purely by God’s grace alone, and yes, only God knows those who are truly his. But the issue here is different. Mr Rudd professes to be a Christian. He is both a very public figure, a national leader, and someone who seems to have some real problems that do not at all speak well of his profession of faith. There must be dozens of passages in the NT alone commanding us to encourage and admonish one another to be all we can be in Christ.

    To be honest, if I had as high of a public profile as he did, and was clearly sinning in a certain area, and no one called me up on it, or in fact sought to make excuses for my behaviour, I would be greatly let down by my fellow believers. I would be cheated. We all need to be held accountable. Simply defending a believer’s transgressions helps no one, and is far from being biblical.

    But yes we certainly need to be praying for our leaders. But as we pray for Rudd, we should also write to him, and mention to him that he is doing the cause of Christ no good at least in this particular area.

    Finally, while one can debate how different Rudd is from Hulls, they both belong to a party that is bent on activism and social engineering. And the Labor Party is far more than just Rudd.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  26. We are not infallible creatures, Kevin Rudd is no exception, and we all need to check ourselves very often. As Kevin Rudd is well acquainted with Chinese culture, he should remind himself often what Lao Tzu said, “He who controls others maybe powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier.”
    Barry Koh

  27. John Thomas, I agree. Swearing warrants analysis of its patterns. There are double standards to be noted. For example, the “f” word is very common in films and on a certain TV chef show but swear words derived from the noun “buggery” are virtually taboo. Political correctness even shapes foul language.
    John Snowden

  28. Whether Rudd is a genuine Christian or not only God really knows, but we can certainly observe that the evidence is lacking. However, what is not in doubt is that Rudd is about a million miles away from having a Christian or Biblical worldview and this is what really matters when it comes to politics. As I have said before, I would rather vote for a professing atheist who demonstrated a biblical worldview than for a professing Christian who demonstrates a humanist/Marxist worldview like Rudd does.

    And I don’t really care if (I suspect) Jim Wallace thinks Mr Rudd is a genuine Christian, what should concern Mr Wallace in his role as ACL leader is whether Mr Rudd is governing consistent with a biblical worldview and that is certainly what he is not doing.

    Ewan McDonald.

  29. Years ago I was honored to be part of a ministry to the Australian Army, the Everyman’s Welfare Service.
    Before being sent to the Recruit Training Battalion down in Wagga I spent some time with the Chief Commissioner.
    He said “Jim’ you are going to a group of young men who do not read the Bible, so, you must be a walking Bible.”
    People will judge you not by your words but by your actions, we are told not to be “stumbling blocks” so what example is the PM setting, what does he present to Australians as being the way that Christians act?
    Jim Sturla

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