Plenty of people have become quite cynical about politics in general and the Labor Party in particular after a small cabal of political assassins deposed one Prime Minister and installed another. This coup d’etat was as ruthless as it was efficient, and it has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of many.
And Christians are especially upset, with the result that many will once again write off political involvement altogether, claiming it is all too grubby, too worldly, too dishonest, and too much of the devil. Many believers have already been quite suspicious of politics, and this seems to further justify their concerns.
Much ink had already been spilt on the activity of the past few days. So I will not spend too much time on the actual events that led up to this incredible regime change. But let me mention a few aspects before looking at the broader issue of Christians and political involvement.
As to the dumping of Rudd and his replacement by Gillard, this is sadly part of political life, although it seems that the Labor party has in many ways perfected this art of political assassination. And the manner in which the new regime seeks to justify all this is quite amazing.
How much have we heard in the last few days the new leaders telling us how great Rudd was, what a hero he had been, and how we all owe him such a debt of gratitude. Yet these same people are insisting that the government was losing its way, that a change of direction was necessary, and that Rudd had to go. Of course you cannot have it both ways.
If Rudd was so great, why was such a drastic change needed? And of course Gillard and Swan were fully committed to all the policies they now are condemning Rudd for. The hypocrisy is alarming. So too is the treachery and disloyalty. All the current crop of leaders were just days ago pledging their undying loyalty to Kevin Rudd.
A few other commentators are worth calling upon here. One major concern is how a few powerful unions and party hacks can determine the leadership of a nation. As John Izzard writes, “Kevin Rudd’s fall, which could be best described as ‘the night of the long stiletto’, seems to have begun in that arcane world of the loyalty-lite Labor party faction system and powerful union bosses. It was their first ever attempt at queen-making. Subservient Labor members duly fell into line and, hey presto, we have a new Prime Minister.
“Not the one that millions of voting Australians chose, but the one picked by Bill Shorten and David Feeney from Victoria, Don Farrell from South Australia and Mark Arbib from New South Wales. Don’t you just love democracy? But at least the media was on the job with various descriptions ranging from ‘Labor’s shadow men stuck knife into Rudd’ to ‘Hit squad behind Deputy’s push’.”
He continues, “The whole business, as described by Tony Abbott, was the old midnight knock on the door. It was also, like her namesake’s, Julius Caesar’s exit , a nasty, bloody business. Ministers and Labor members singing the praises and vowing the loyality to Kevin Rudd one minute, wiping the blood onto their togas the next. No matter how much a person disliked his manner and his policies, as a Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd deserved better. He deserved respect.
“With John Howard, at least his colleagues stood by him to the end – even though the polls, and their instincts, told them of an impending loss. John Howard never had a et tu Brutus moment. Julia Gillard is, without doubt, Kevin Rudd’s Brutus.”
And Paul Kelly notes the real reasons for the regime change: “The coup that installed Julia Gillard was driven neither by policy nor ideology; it is about image, party management and election survival, and constitutes a new method of Labor rule. Gillard’s vision for Australia is little different from that of Kevin Rudd. But Labor’s spinning wheels will work to conceal such embarrassing truth. Indeed, Gillard endorsed every significant decision made by Rudd during his brief period in office.”
He states further, “This reveals a party governed not by ideas but powerful interests that span networks of factional, trade union, family and special interest group connections that thrive on the patronage, finances and appointments that only incumbency can deliver.
“It raises a fundamental issue: is this method and structure of Labor self-aggrandisement consistent with Australia’s national interest? Put another way, is the power structure that king-made Gillard also the power structure that works for Australia’s policy needs in today’s globalised world?”
Faith and Politics
But what about faith and politics? I have written many times elsewhere about the biblical mandate for believers to be involved in the political system, so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that in a fallen world, everything is tainted. That is certainly true of politics.
In many ways politics is a grubby game, based on compromise, and seeking to stay ahead at any cost. Of course it need not be this way, but many politicians put self-preservation ahead of principle. So can a Christian enter the dirty world of politics and remain unscathed?
I think they can, and I think they should. One thinks of someone like Fred Nile in NSW who for decades now has sought to be salt and light in a very dark and corrupt environment. He has been able to maintain his Christian principles, and not compromise on either character or policy.
If anything, the events of the past few days show the importance of having committed, strong and biblically-based Christians in all spheres of life, not least of which, the political sphere. That politics is corrupt and filled with megalomaniacs and those thirsting after power should come as no surprise.
In a fallen world, all the institutions which God ordained have been greatly marred. But government is an institution which God has established, and instead of letting it go to the dogs (or the devil) we should seek to be salt and light in this area as well.
Every aspect of life should be brought under the Lordship of Christ. We believers have a huge responsibility to seek to faithfully represent Christ in all realms of life, including the political realm. It will not be easy. Indeed, it will be a terribly hard slog.
The temptation to compromise on principle, to sell oneself to the highest bidder, to put power ahead of that which is right, will be a constant risk we all face, especially those in the political arena. Now more than ever we need Christian men and women of integrity, of character, of conviction, of honesty, and of courage to stand up and be counted in the halls of power, and in every other area where the light of Christ needs to shine.
So I urge all believers not to throw up their hands and fall for the enemy’s lie that politics is irredeemable and beyond the pale. For too long evangelical Christians especially have taken a hands-off approach to politics, believing it is the devil’s work.
In many ways we have allowed the political sphere to be fundamentally tarnished simply by pulling out and refusing to be engaged. We have lost many political battles by default, because we have disengaged from all our social and political obligations.
So instead of seeing this latest example of political ugliness as a good reason to steer clear of politics altogether, why not let it serve as a challenge that good men and women of faith are sorely needed to reclaim this institution for Christ and his glory?
That does not mean we will bring the Kingdom of God to earth through politics alone. The Kingdom will never arrive fully until the King returns. But we can take seriously our biblical responsibility to be salt and light in a very needy and a very broken world. This is true of the political arena as much as any.
At the very least, remember our calling as Christian citizens to pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2). At such a time as this we dare not withdraw from the world, but engage it with the love, wisdom and purity of Christ. It will ever be a difficult and thankless task, but one which we are nonetheless called to perform.