Faith and Politics
Good Morning and Welcome to this week’s Gospel and Culture update, by Alan Vink
Faith and Politics
Monday 8th August 2022
Today Karl Faase is my guest writer. I first met Karl in 2017 and for the two years that followed he was the keynote speaker at some pastors seminars I convened around New Zealand. Karl’s background is in pastoral ministry and is now CEO of Olive Tree Media in Australia. Karl is passionate about resourcing local churches by providing engaging and contemporary material for small groups, events and church services.
Please Note: This is a thoughtful article about the influence we as Christians have had in the past and should continue to have in the public square. It is NOT supporting in any way whatsoever the brand of politics (and rhetoric) that Brian Tamaki is once again espousing. I will have more to say about this in subsequent blogs. - Alan Vink
Taking Faith into the Party room, Cabinet and on the floor of Parliament
We have just released a new Australian series Faith Runs Deep, this series deals with Australian stories of faith and the influence of the followers of Jesus on our nation. As part of the episode on politics we dealt with a discussion on the question of the separation of church and state. This debate in countries like Australia, New Zealand and many other western democratic nations.
Creating the episode on politics has been a revelation, unearthing the deep influence Christians had in politics and especially the Australian Labour party and union movement. In this episode we also explored the issue of the separation of church and state. This is important as there are many people who now see our nations as secular and as a result believe the Church and Christians should stay out of the political scene. If Christians do have aspirations for a life in politics then you should remain silent on their beliefs because those views are not acceptable for democratic western nations. There is a separation of church and state so Christians should stay quiet on their faith.
Is this a realistic approach, should people of Christian faith, or any faith for that matter, be silenced in the political process?
Cleary we believe this to be a complete misuse of this suggested separation. It’s helpful to consider the original action to separate church and state. This was a phrase from American politics, used by Thomas Jefferson, in 1786 in the Virginia Statute for religious Freedom. This statute was about a wall of protection of the church from the state not the state from the church. Religious freedom and liberty was a value that helped found the US. It was the pursuit of religious freedom which motivated many to board ships to travel to north America. The separation of church and state for Jefferson was built around those deeply held values of freedom, which meant the church should be free from state intrusion.
We also need to consider the basis of democracy. This is a representative system of government where everyone are able to represent their community and political ideology. The notion that people of faith should be silent about their beliefs and values runs contrary to democratic process. A specific religious group ought not impose their view of morality and standards on the whole community unless the community votes for that outcome. But neither should a country demand that people be silent on their beliefs. It’s is partly why they take their places in the houses of government.
We asked Ex Deputy PM of Australia, John Anderson his response to the suggestion that he leave his faith outside the party room or cabinet. Here is how he replied….
“Well, good question to ask, which bit of my Christianity would you like me to leave behind? The bit that cares about the poor, those who are different to me or the bit that's committed to justice? The…the bit that's committed to integrity and the fair use of scales and weights and what have you, good public policy? I think that's one of the tritest lines I've ever heard, I have to say that. Because we all have belief systems. And I haven't noticed too many progressives being prepared to leave their values behind when they go into the cabinet room”
John went on to quote Tom Holland, an UK author experienced in researching the Greco Roman world who has made the assessment that it is Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian church that have given western democratic nations their foundational values. Holland does not say this as a religious person, he is not a Christian, but writes as a scholar and researcher. This is not religious ideology speaking but rather observation.
People of Christian faith have every right to speak into the democratic process and any group, party or faction that suggests that people of faith should leave their beliefs at the door fails to grasp the democratic process. It underestimates both the people they represent and the enormous contribution Christian faith has made in the formation of democratic nations. As our guest Roy Williams says, “..this country (Australia) was built on Christian capital.”