CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Morrison and Christian Politicians

Aug 25, 2018

I have written often about the intersection of faith and politics, and how Christianity might fit into the world of partisan politics. And I have written often about Christian politicians, both here and overseas. All this becomes even more pronounced given our brand-new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

Much to the chagrin of many on the secular left, he is the first ever Protestant evangelical Christian running the country. And worse yet (at least in the eyes of some), he is a Pentecostal to boot. He regularly attends the Horizon Pentecostal mega-church in Sydney’s south.

Yes, we have had other politicians who were/are Protestant evangelicals. Think of John Anderson who was the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party from 1999 to 2005, or Peter Costello who served as Treasurer in the Howard Government from 1996 to 2007. Many other evangelicals served various roles in government.

But now we have an evangelical and a Pentecostal sitting in the Lodge. That will be just too much for many on the left and many who despise religion – at least of the conservative variety. But their complaints will be nothing new: they have long moaned about the Christian presence in Parliament.

Recall back in 2007 when the leader of the Australian Democrats, Lyn Allison, complained that there were too many Christians in Parliament and that they didn’t reflect the rest of the nation. Given that back then, as today, the majority of Australians still identify as Christians, that was a rather foolish thing to say.

And for those who want religion never to intersect with politics, things are now even worse. Not only is Morrison decidedly religious, but for the first time ever we have a Jewish Deputy Liberal leader. So the top two jobs have a clear religious ring to them.

As to Morrison, now that he is our Prime Minister, everyone wants to know all about his faith. He has never tried to hide or downplay his Christian beliefs. In his February 14, 2008 maiden speech to Parliament he sought to spell out his faith convictions. He said in part:

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message.

In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.

Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.

So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24: “… I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.”

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way: “… we expect Christians … to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.”

These are my principles. My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.
parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F2008-02-14%2F0045%22

There he tried to walk the fine line between appearing to be “too religious” and demonstrating the place of faith in public life. He of course did not quote John 3:16 and demand that everyone convert to Christianity. He is not a theonomist, and he recognises that faith in a secular culture has a rather uneasy relationship.

And that has always been the case. How far does one go, especially when conflicts arise between faith commitments and serving the will of the people? This can often be a tough ask for people of faith in public office. Mind you, even secular politicians have to at times decide if they will run with the will of the people or stick with their core convictions.

And that is also simply a problem of representative democracies. On the one hand we look to strong leaders who will stand up for their convictions, and act on principle and not just political expediency. But on the other hand they are OUR representatives, and we expect them to represent what the people want – at least within reason.

The Christian politician especially feels this dilemma. How far do they go in pushing their own faith convictions (which I would argue are for the most part also good for the nation), and when do they have to leave them behind and allow the people – or the Party – to get what they want?

A great example of all this was the recent Parliamentary vote on marriage. In early December of last year, after the homosexual marriage plebiscite, Parliamentarians voted on the matter. How the “no camp” voted – or did not vote – is quite revealing.

Many of the ‘no’ politicians were Christians, but not all of them. And when it came time to vote, very few actually stood strong. Only four in fact voted against the bill:
Bob Katter
Keith Pitt
David Littleproud
Russell Broadbent

And ten others abstained from the vote:
Scott Morrison
Barnaby Joyce
Tony Abbott
Andrew Hastie
Michael Sukkar
Kevin Andrews
George Christensen
Rick Wilson
Stuart Robert
Bert van Manen

Why did so many on the ‘no’ side not vote? Well, they would say they were between a rock and a hard place. They were personally strongly against fake marriage, but they also were voted into office to represent their electorate. So what do you do when the two conflict? Which way do you go? Many of them felt that the best thing to do in that case was to simply not vote at all.

Thus Morrison and others abstained from voting, while some others in the ‘no’ group actually voted ‘yes’! For example, Peter Dutton opposed the redefinition of marriage throughout, but at the end he said that he would ‘respect the will of the people’ and he ended up voting for it.
www.buzzfeed.com/aliceworkman/dutton-says-yes?utm_term=.oxBMQxw4W#.cgOv7q0Wz

So that is the dilemma for conservatives, especially Christian conservatives. Do you stick to what you know is right, even if the majority of your electorate thinks the opposite, or do you give up your convictions to respect the wishes of the people?

One Christian on the social media chastised Morrison for abstaining, citing Matthew 5:37 which says: “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Well, that is true for the most part, but may not be the last word on how believers are to operate in the political arena.

As is so often said, politics is the ‘art of compromise’. And that is not always a bad thing. Often you do have to compromise somewhat to get a bill through, or to see some legislative outcome achieved. That is simply how politics in a democratic nation operates.

This may not be ideal, but really, what are the alternatives. A dictatorship is one option – but not one I would recommend. Another, as mentioned, is a form of theocracy where only laws based fully on biblical law are permitted. The problems of this should be obvious: should Australian law only feature legislation which includes stoning to death rebellious children and those caught in adultery?

Now, the discussion of how Old Testament law ties in with the New Testament, and how laws specific to ancient Israel tie in to modern pagan nations is a huge one. I will not enter into all that here. Suffice it to say that most believers recognise the binding nature of the moral law (eg., the Ten Commandments) while not seeing Israel’s civil laws (and penalties) as being binding on secular states today.

So my question remains: what does a strong Christian do when his core beliefs are challenged by a vote, a bill, or a party line, etc? There are different options here. Some would say that the best way forward is to flee the major parties and join a small Christian political party. That is one option, although the chances of any member of these parties getting elected is always going to be very slim indeed.

Another option is to join a smaller conservative party, which may also be based on Christian values, but does not present itself in that fashion, such as Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. Again, electoral success is somewhat slim, but that is a legitimate option for many Christians.

Another major option is to stay in the two main parties and hope to have some real influence there. That of course is the path chosen by Morrison, Anderson, Costello and many other Christians over the years. These Protestant Christians have joined with many conservative Catholics like Abbott who have sought to do the same.

One can always ask just how far one can go in this direction. For example, one can ask just how much of a conservative Christian agenda was achieved when Abbott held the top job. This too is a very complex issue, and plenty of Christians will have differing views on this.

Some say we need to get even more involved, including having greater influence in local branches. Yes, getting more Christians into politics, and into Parliament, is one way to go. Again, just how effective all that will be can be a moot point.

Sure, as I said in my article yesterday, I am thrilled to see Turnbull gone, and things can only get better – at least to some extent – with someone like Morrison at the helm. But as I also said yesterday, there are many folks in the Federal Liberal Party who will NOT want to see the party regain a more conservative stance. Many are happy to keep pushing it to the left, as was Turnbull.

And as I recently said in another article, we have the problem of conservative Christian politicians not voting on key matters because they want to prolong their stay in Parliament. But as I said then, what is the point of having good conservatives and Christians in office if they keep voting the wrong way – or not at all – to ensure that they survive? Why seek to stay on if at key moments you will not stand up and be counted?

So these are just some of the problems we encounter when we have Christians trying to be salt and light and do some good in the political realm, all the while facing very real restraints, such as party platforms; colleagues of different persuasions; the will of the electorate; the need to sometimes compromise to achieve a good outcome further down the road; and so on.

None of this is easy, and it all can get quite complicated. And some believers, despairing of all this, will simply opt out. They will quite wrongly say that there is no point for Christians to have any involvement in politics, it is all Satan’s territory anyway, so just pull out and have nothing to do with it.

I do not buy that counsel of despair – and thankfully neither did other great Christian parliamentarians such as Wilberforce. God set up government, and he expects his people to be salt and light in it, as in every area of life. We should seek to extend the Lordship of Christ into the political arena, the social and cultural arenas, and so on.

Abstaining from all political involvement is not the biblical answer. But neither is putting all our faith and hope in politics, as I have so often said. Politics cannot save – only Christ can. But in a fallen world God has ordained the state, and he expects his people to have some godly influence there.

It will never be easy. That is why at the very least we must pray fervently for Morrison. He really is in a tough place right now. He, like all believers, are always in a tough place when involved in political life. But being the Prime Minister makes his task even more difficult.

And the secular left, be it in politics, the media, and elsewhere, will be baying for blood: Morrison’s blood. They will NOT want him to succeed, and they will do all they can to thwart him, undermine him, oppose him, and seek to remove him. So please pray for our new government.

Morrison will need the wisdom of Solomon, the boldness of Jeremiah, the mind of Paul, and the power of Christ as he seeks to lead Australia, yet also stay true to his core Christian beliefs and convictions. It will not be easy, and he will be strongly tempted to capitulate, to weaken, to go with the flow, and to water down that which matters.

Please pray for Scott Morrison.

[2513 words]

24 Responses to Morrison and Christian Politicians

  • Your post Bill made me think of a minefield and someone trying to get from A to B without losing his life from unexpected explosions. I have been actively involved in the political realm for 40 years and have a degree in Politics and can attest to every word that you have said.

    Scomo is going to need a few miracles along the way so I pray that God will honour him and give him what he needs to govern well.

    I feel that it is imperative that Bill Shorten does not become PM as he has made lying an art form if his twitters are anything to go by which I have been following every day for six months and he has put his colours on the mast and made it clear that any Christian or Christian organisation that does not bow to the homosexual agenda will be prosecuted.

    Add to that the left wing media baying for blood and you have a David/Goliath scenario. but we know who won that battle.

    Our next election will end up one of two ways. A resounding victory for the forces of righteousness or the people being totally deceived and selecting Bill Shorten to govern and the country sliding into chaos.

  • Well said Roger Marks. We do know who wins but we cannot evade the battle that we are in. Our fight is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God … that you may be able to stand your ground.
    See Ephesians 6:10-18.

  • It was an excellent article by Bill.
    Just one thing. On 31st August last year Scott Morrison declared he was voting no in the same sex marriage plebiscite and I have always been of the understanding, up until now, that he did just that.
    I realise a number of poiliticians did abstain from voting, but was he definitely one of them.
    Not that it matters overly much now.

  • Thanks Rob. Yes older news now, but all the reports I have seen state that he did indeed abstain from the vote in Parliament.

  • Let me get this straight…there are some in Australia who are concerned that their new PM, Scott Morrison, a (shudder and be very afraid) Protestant Christian Bible-believer…might read the Bible at night rather than crack open the latest Playboy magazine…and might accidentally let loose with a “Bless God,” or “Praise the Lord,” if you get a good rain after a lengthy and disastrous drought? Man, if that’s their biggest nightmare, they sure have their priorities messed up. But such is the insane time in which we live. That’s what happens when, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “We (this nation) have forgotten God”…rational thought is abandoned, if not utterly lost.

  • One way to lessen the complexity of which way to go, is to let the people know before you are elected what your moral values are. Some things are not negotiable. I understand there are challenges and struggles, but by abstaining he only increased the victory of the Yes vote. Things always end up in a mess when we as Christians do not decide to put God first right from the beginning, no matter who complains or no matter where we end up.

  • My thoughts concerning the future of Christianity in Australian politics:
    Would it perhaps be better for broadly educated Christian men and women with established careers and good reputations to stand as independent candidates in the communities where they are admired and respected, rather than (mostly) unknown, though well-intentioned ‘mum & dad’ candidates standing for a specifically Christian party? As independents, they are not subject to the dictates of party policy. They are also not seen as single issue (Christianity) politicians. Their success or failure would then hinge on their response to the broad range of issues that affect all Australians.
    I am sure a coalition of independent Christian politicians could run the country at least as well as the major parties!

  • Thanks Jim. Yes, Christians running as independents is certainly another option. Of course all of these options have their pros and cons, including how likely it is to get elected.

  • Great article Bill. I am challenged by the thought of ‘compromise’ needed but willing to accept that these Christian leaders must stand before their King one day and I ought not to judge them.
    I’ve been involved in Politics for many years and there are many questions and struggles.
    I studied the life of Wilberforce quite a lot and came to the conclusion that he did not compromise, but rather was very wise and astute and would be guided to be ‘one step ahead of the enemy’.
    Thanks for your faithful stance over many years in keeping on the cutting edge of issues coming down in our Nation. Morrison needs our prayers so very much. I’m praying he has God’s ear on the selection of the new Cabinet and makes no room for the Jezebel Spirit to have place in there. God bless.

  • Well done Bill. Couldn’t be presented better. Fully agree with you Roger Marks, Lesley and Vicki. May the Body of Christ awaken to the brutal reality that the foundation of Judeo Christian values upon which this nation was built has been greatly eroded by default simply because of apathy and cry out to the Lord with repentant hearts for his mercy and grace. The time to awaken and to act is Now ! This nation needs this awakening !

  • Very well said Bill.

    As soon as I read Beryl Spencer saying ‘one step ahead of the enemy’ I prayed that immediately for Scott Morrison and I will continue to do so.

    1 Sa 8:7 And Jehovah said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you. For they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
    (MKJV)

    It is scriptural to do as the people ask but also scriptural to warn them of the consequences, so restoring free speech and debate has to be paramount. Unfortunately, when Australia voted to redefine marriage and defile this nation and trample the sacredness of family, that so many had fought and died for, the media prevented warnings from being made and Malcolm Turnbull was absolutely complicit in that process of shutting down free speech. The small amount of privately funded advertising moved the vote from the polled 75% to under 63% so had a fair debate been allowed then the vote could have easily been very different. Let’s hope we are able, soon, to do something about allowing the truth to be heard but the amount of uncontested propaganda that has been allowed to be spread definitely makes the task more difficult and we know the ABC and SBS sources much of their content from the worst that the BBC produces, and that is extremely bad.

  • The first evangelical Protestant Prime Minister of Australia? Please. You’re nearly 100 years out. That honour belongs to the Sunday School teaching Presbyterian, Andrew Fisher.

  • Thanks Matt. Of course the two terms are not synonymous, and not all Presbyterians would be happy with the term. Both Menzies and Fraser had Presbyterian roots, but we hardly refer to either as evangelicals. So I am not sure we can call Fisher one either, notwithstanding being a Sunday school superintendent, and being beholden to Calvinist teachings. And I am pretty sure he was not a Pentecostal either. It was both those elements of Morrison’s faith that I was emphasising here of course.

  • Thank you for your article Bill as so wanted to find out more about our new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and praising God for this change. So agree with his need for us, as Christians, to be praying for him and reading your article has further cemented that need in my own heart.

  • Scott Morrison needs the church to wake up and support him.

    Deuteronomy 28:1
    “And if you faithfully obey the VOICE of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth”.

    King Jehoshaphat was a great example of Godly leadership. He did not compromise. Jehoshaphat got rid of ungodly idols in the land.

    The Modern Day Asherah pole is secularism in the media without free speech, sharing God’s truth (VOICE).

    Jehoshaphat worked with his officials and the Levite (priests), who preached Gods law.
    “The fear of the LORD (respect for God) fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat”. 2 Chronicles 17:10

    When we hear God’s truth in the Media, then we will experience revival and reformation.

  • Very astute article and interesting comments, as always. Can anyone direct me to Bill Shorten’s comments on Twitter about prosecuting Christians as mentioned by Roger? If this is true, then it is certainly unchristian and incredibly hypocritical, and the public should know about it.

  • Desmond Tutu put it this way: “… we expect Christians … to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.”
    Bill, you must be joking? You are surely not referring to the atheist/ marxist Tutu?

  • Thanks Francois. A) I of course did not say that – Morrison did. B) Just because I quote someone does not mean I agree with everything that was said.

  • Great Article Bill,
    Our New PM certainly needs the consistent and serious prayers of every Christian on this site and in Australia.

    Satan, the ABC + GetUP + the Greens + Australian Witches will be working overtime to bring him down and should not be under-estimated.

    Let;s take the task seriously,
    Phil – Sydney

  • Apologies Bill. Was upset about the “quote” of Tutu and did not realize it was Morrison’s statements. Born in Swaziland, lived and worked in several sub Saharan African states (including military service) and have studied the African history (including the devastation of Marxism on indigenous people).

  • Dear Bill, Thank you for the article. I was hoping you would write one along these lines as someone said to me last week that Christians should not get involved in politics because the Bible says so. If I get the opportunity I will direct the person to this article

  • As your next door neighbour, we in Indonesia rejoice with you for a good Christian like Morrison leading Australia. We here dare not be too hopeful for ourselves, only for a moderate moslem president like Jokowi. To ask for more, is…well…unrealistic. Ahok, a bold Christian who was once Governor of Jakarta, got jailed for blasphemy.

  • Proverbs 28:2 (NLT)
    When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.

    Proverbs 29:2 (NKJV)
    When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.

    Daniel 4:17 (NKJV)
    ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.’

    1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)
    1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
    2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
    3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (NKJV)
    13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
    14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Leave a Reply