33rd Wednesday in Ordinary Time / 25th Wednesday after Pentecost
[ now playing? ] Sufjan Stevens – “Vol. III Ding! Dong!  from the 5CD box set “Songs for Christmas”
Those of you who read this blog from outside Australia might not realize that we are having our federal election this Saturday and for us Australians, voting is compulsory.
Being a public servant, I’ll make this clear right from the very start of this post, that the following comments are explicitly my own personal views and are in no way binding against the Australian Public Service. </end disclaimer>
I know some people from church have been sending around emails that link to a .jpg of a checklist of issues that supposedly Christians care about and which then proceed to give a tick or flick against the major parties (Labor, Liberal and the Nationals), the minor parties (the Greens, Australian Democrats) and then Christian-based parties (the Christian Democrats and Family First). While I am a Christian and yes, the issues in that checklist do matter to me, am I really that stupid to have to rely on a not-so-subtle hint (if not a shove or elbow in my substantially sized ribs) from the Australian Christian lobby (which to me is taking on overtones of the US Religious Right/Moral Majority now) on who I should, if not must, vote for?
Are all these hot button issues the ones that we Christians are only bound on voting for? What about other issues that relate back to industrial relations (Catholic social teaching [formulated from the initial views contained within Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum and Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno] has been rather instructive to me on this issue in formulating my own views and thoughts given that I haven’t really seen much on this from a Protestant perspective), tax policy (quoting Romans 13 and Christ’s words to ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s’ is not sufficient to say that Christians have a tax policy platform!), human rights (again Catholic social teaching has been generally instructive and thought provoking on this issue along with the views from the “Christian Left/Red Letter Christians”), poverty and the economy (amongst a whole stack of issues)?
For example, on the issue of gay marriage, I am personally against any moves to integrate within the Marriage Act 1961 (as amended) to let gay marriage have the same legal standing as heterosexual or de-facto marriages (both in the secular context as well as in the church context [for the record, I also do not support what the Episcopal Church in the USA have done with the consecration and ordination of homosexual clergy as that is clearly against Scripture]).
However, as a heterosexual Christian who also does keep in mind any issues of equality and human rights, I cannot support moves in good conscience to deny those who are gay or lesbian the same rights that heterosexuals have in relation to issues on veterans pensions/healthcare and on access to superannuation benefits [amongst other things] should one partner pass away before the other. This may simply necessitate amendments to legislation that include homosexual couples and individual homosexual partners as being included in the definition of a “spouse” or “partner” or some other new term without recourse to a circular definition that points the poor user of legislation back to the Marriage Act 1961. As far as I’m aware, this should not then imply that the definitions contained within the Marriage Act 1961 then override other federal statute if I remember my basic understanding of legal study in the federal arena that I completed back in 2001. I can’t see there being a breach of the Marriage Act (with my infinitesimal knowledge of law compared to Justices Gummow, Kirby, Crennan, Kiefel, et al of the High Court or any judge that sits in the Federal Court), if legislation that’s potentially affected is amended to include same-sex partners as being valid recipients of such benefits, etc without having to include them within the pre-existing definitions of “spouse” and “partner” that legislation might already contain.
The distinction between the legal recognition of same-sex couples as being equal to heterosexual couples under marriage law versus the granting of equal rights for them to access government social welfare and tax benefits (I call this “limited legalization”) is clear in my mind.
On another issue, I note that the Family First senate candidate up here in Queensland wishes to run on a platform of increasing the tax-free threshold to A$10k from A$6k if I’m correct as well as a reduction on fuel excise of 10c a litre. That is all well and good. You’ll definitely be helping out the poorer folks of the country by doing that, but increasing the tax-free threshold means that you also give another $4k to the rich as well (it’s a nice across the board tax cut, I know I’d appreciate an extra $4k a year tax free). But anyone who has done even the most basic smidgen of economics (macro- and micro-) would realize that by potentially setting loose another $4k a year of discretionary income, that either translates into increased savings (yeah right) or increased consumption. Increased consumption is great when an economy is in the dumps (i.e. recession) to help kick start it again but when an economy is going as gangbusters as ours is currently, once everything filters through, my gut is telling me that we’ll prolly end up seeing increased inflationary risks that could leave the RBA with not much choice but to use monetary policy as a stick (i.e. increase interest rates) to cool off the economy and bring it back to a more manageable level (with inflation within the 2-3% target band).
As for the reduction of excise, that’s a moot point (I’m more worried about the GST still being applied on the wholesale price of fuel, retailers margin and excise tax). If you cut excise by 10c a litre, that simply means less government revenue and 10c back in the hands of consumers who will prolly find a way to use that extra 10c a litre (and I’m betting that it won’t be used to bolster savings or reduction of household and/or personal debt).
Those are just a few issues, but Christians have to remember that members of the House of Representatives and the Senate that they elect are there to govern for the benefit of all Australians, not just the Christian portion, the atheist portion, the Muslim portion, the gay and lesbian community, etc, etc. I worry that in future elections, the “Christian” vote is going to end up being somewhat similar to that in the USA back in the 2004 election where evangelicals essentially voted along party lines (namely Republican) courtesy of some gentle “persuasion” from the pulpit and on darned Christian television channels (like TBN). Where we don’t bother using that gray matter that God has put inside our skulls but instead simply just do as we’re told. Incidentally, I won’t be voting Family First, Christian Democrat or Democratic Labor Party this federal election.
Which somehow a brings a line or two to mind from Derek Webb’s somewhat satirical song “A New Law” that’s on his 2005 CD release, Mockingbird. Ah heck, I’ll just reproduce the entire set of lyrics.
Don’t teach me about politics and government
Just tell me who to vote for
Don’t teach me about truth and beauty
Just label my music
Don’t teach me how to live like a free man
Just give me a new law
I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me
I want a new law
I want a new law
Gimme that new law
Don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice
Don’t teach me about loving my enemies
Don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
Just give me a new law
What’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
Fr one you can that cannot get you anything
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
On another note, Fr. Peter’s linked to a site on his latest blog entry that contains an interview (in written and audio/podcast form) with Bishop N.T. Wright. Interesting thoughts from the Bishop of Durham indeed.