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Wednesday 15 May 2019

Bill Shorten Is Un-Australian

This may seem like a big statement to make. I mean after-all unlike some of our previous Prime Ministers like Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten was born and bred in Australia. He has strong roots in the workers union movements, which have a long history in Australian tradition, and he speaks with that nasally Aussie accent that us younger Australians brought up on too much American TV can’t help but notice and sometimes even grate at. So, in many ways Bill Shorten is a product of and representative of Australian people and our history. But the way in which he is un-Australian is so important, because he wants to be the Prime Minister of Australia, the highest representative of our laws and constitution. So how is he un-Australian? Well he has gone against the spirit of our most important historical and legal document: the constitution. First let’s read his comments and then we’ll see how.

Bill says,

"I cannot believe in this election that there is a discussion even under way that gay people will go to hell," Mr Shorten said.

"I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell."

When Mr Shorten was asked if he believed gay people would go to hell, he said: "No, I don't believe gay people, because they're gay, will go to hell. I don't need a law to tell me that. I don't believe it."

The Opposition Leader then criticised Mr Morrison for not being able to give a direct answer to the same question the previous day.

"I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia you are going to be prime minister for all people. And I just don't believe it. The nation's got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity(The Sydney Morning Herald).

Now if you want to read my discussion of who goes to hell you can read here and here. What the Bible says about this topic is far more that what Bill Shorten has narrowed it down to, but his truly concerning comment is in the last line: "I think if you want to be prime minister of Australia you are going to be prime minister for all people. And I just don't believe it. The nation's got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.” Whether intentionally or not Bill Shorten has used the media to create a religious test of office for the Prime Minister.

The Australian constitution clearly says this in article 116:
“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth” (Government website).

The constitution specifically forbids the Australian government from making any law that requires a religious test for any public office. That means any position in the government or government bureaucracy from working in Australian Federal Police, the Army, all the way on up to the Prime Minister’s office.

Now Mr Shorten has not sought to pass such a law, and if he was to become Prime Minister to pass such a law would require changing the Constitution which is no easy task. But he has used the media during an election campaign to effectively create a religious test for the job of Prime Minister. He has effectively said in his comments that any Christian who holds to a traditional view of Christian morality is not fit to be the leader of this nation. Not only is this ridiculous Australia has had many Christian and non-Christian leaders over its history who have done their jobs well, but it is also thoroughly un-Australian.

Those who know our history well will know that Australia was founded as a British Colony at a time when Britain had learnt many lessons about established religions and living peacefully with Christians and people of different faiths. Those who were building our society did not want a repeat of the clashes between Catholics and Anglicans, nor did they want the persecutions of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and others in England coming here, and though Anglicanism was the favoured majority religion in Australia, from our earliest days of European settlement Catholicism was a strong part of Australian identity. Therefore, learning from the mistakes of the old country, our founders here in Australia decided to make this new country a place where people of all religions and none, could be treated equally and live peaceably together, without fear of persecution or exclusion. It was an essential part of the founding ethos of Australia that people’s religious beliefs would not be used against them when they sought to serve their commonwealth in an official capacity.

This philosophy was so important to the founders of Australia that they enshrined this ethos in the constitution making it law and making it a foundational part of Australian identity.  By using the tactic of creating a religious test for the Prime Ministership in the media during an election campaign, Bill Shorten has shown himself to be in total contradiction to our Aussie values and therefore incredibly un-Australian. I don’t think such a man is fit for the highest office of the land, he seems have no respect for the most important founding principles of our nation: a place where we don’t judge people politically by their religion or creed.

This issue is too important for us as a society to overlook. If we want to continue to live in a free society, with strong values of tolerance and respect for all people, we need people in top positions who uphold those values as unassailable parts of our national identity.   


Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian Constition Website:

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Scott Morrison The Compromiser

In one corner we have a man, Israel Folau who is contemplating his future. Because he refused to delete a post on Instagram he has lost his income, his career, his prestige but he has retained his dignity and his backbone. I am not a 100% sure Israel Folau’s Christianity is orthodox, but I am 110% sure he is a man of principle and I will back up a man who sticks to his Christian principles every day of the week.

In another corner we have the ultimate compromise candidate, Scott Morrison. The man the Liberal Party chose instead of the left leaning Turnbull and the right leaning Peter Dutton. But he is not just the compromise choice of the LNP, he seems to want to carry that moniker into his Prime Ministership and into the election campaign. Many Liberal supporters have been waiting to see if Scott would show true conservative or progressive principles, many Christians were hoping this would be the Christian PM to lead the country into a new age of honouring God. But at the end of the day he has shown us he really is the true Compromiser:

“Question: How appropriate was it for Bill Shorten to raise your answer to a question you received about whether gay people go to hell and can you clear up your position on that question?

Scott Morrison: I have already made a statement. It is not my view that’s the case. My faith is about the - God’s love is for everybody.

That is what I have always believed.

I found it very disappointing that without even prompting he sought to try and politicise this. And seek to exploit opportunity for it. I thought that was very disappointing.

I don’t think that should have a place in this election campaign. People’s faith are people’s faith.
I’m not running for Pope, I’m running for Prime Minister.

So, you know, theological questions you can leave at the door.

Question: Do you believe...[gay people go to hell]

Morrison: I just said no, I don’t.

Question: Why didn’t you say that when you were asked yesterday?

Morrison: Yesterday I plead the point these are -- made the point these are religious issues and I don’t want to see those controversial topics being brought into the political debate. I don’t see how that helps anybody” (The Guardian).

In an effort to try and keep his job, gotten through ill-gotten gain, let’s be honest, he has decided to compromise on his faith. He has clearly contradicted several passages of scripture (1 Cor 6, 1 Tim. 1 etc) in an effort to keep at arms length the baying progressive crowds. No he doesn’t believe gay people go to hell, God’s love is for everyone, he says. He is right about the fact that God’s love is for everyone, but he has clearly said something which contradicts the Apostle Paul, who wrote the book on Christian belief, almost literally (he wrote much of the New Testament at least).

It’s really sad that in today's world Christianity has been boiled down to what people think about homosexuality. Because Christianity is about far more than that. Sexual ethics is a key component, but Christianity at its core is about a loving God who gave his life to redeem sinners, which we all are. As Paul said he is the chief among them. I know that I don’t deserve to go to heaven, none of us do. Only by trusting in Jesus can anyone get there. But for whatever reason our culture has backed Christianity into a corner on this issue of homosexuality, and the truth is the Bible does teach practicing homosexuals, along with gossips, slanders, the greedy, hypocrites adulterers and others will go to hell unless they turn from their sin and trust in Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), just as I would be still going to hell if I continued to define myself by my sin, rather than placed my trust in Jesus. It’s a hard teaching for our society to hear today, but in every generation there are aspects of God’s word the culture considers blasphemous and we have to teach it anyway. The good news is God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell and has made a way for people to escape punishment by trusting in his son who died on the cross for our sins.  

But this isn’t good enough for the cultural elites. They still hate this truth, even when presented with nuance, love and care, and honest self-reflection. Indeed Bill Shorten knows this and has done something that is technically unconstitutional: he has used the media to create a religious test of office for the Prime Minister. Of course it’s not an official law, so it is not technically in breach of the Constitution, but it is definitely in breach of the spirit of the Constitution. But then again the Constitution was written for a different people, with different morals, in a very different age, an age when Christendom still was a valid name for the Western world. A time when the Western world was forging ahead with new liberal principles that had been hard fought through civil wars, revolutions, religious tensions and even a couple of religious wars in the preceding several centuries. Classical Liberalism was the new ideal for this new age Christendom was entering into, an age of liberality for people of all ideas and creeds, where all boundaries were being broken down and society was opening up in ways it never had before. It is a beautiful dream that is starting to shatter before our eyes.

You see this whole situation with Morrison and Shorten highlights something problematic for Western civilization. Societies with few to no boundaries will be over come by cultures or societies with strong boundaries. Whatever you can say about the leftist/progressive cultural framework, it has clear boundaries and a clear hierarchy. They claim to be egalitarian, but that is far from true. There is a hierarchy and sexual ethics, and sexual identity are key components to that hierarchy. There are categories for working out how people should be situated in the hierarchy: sexual orientation, race, ideology, etc, etc are relevant. And these are progressively shifting towards more extreme identity groups with more aspects of their identity lining up with the leftist check boxes of oppression. It’s a very clear, systematic and hierarchical way to restructure society, and it is working, we see it working more and more.

This very clear framework will continue to overcome a "classical liberal" framework because there is nothing which defines classical liberalism other than nebulous, difficult to define things like tolerance, equality, etc, etc. Which have all been disconnected from their roots in Christendom and the philosophies of thinkers who forged their ideas in Christian discussion groups, universities, and culture and therefore these values have been made far less secure as guiding principles for our modern society. They are now disconnected from their originating document: the New Testament. These values were hashed out in debates about how to live as differing Christians in a Christian society, they were never designed to be principles for a multi-cultural society, that looked on Christianity with disdain. Just read the writings of men like Locke, and that is pretty clear. We need to completely re-evaluate how we move forward, because the principles of a bygone era are no longer serving the freedoms they were intended to foster, they are now being twisted and corrupted to suit those who wish to use them for their own quest for power in the progressively less-liberal West.  

In this new context Christians will be better off laying their chips on the table and letting what may come, come, it will be painful but its the best path forward. Scott Morrison should just be honest that unrepentant sinners of all types go to hell and take the public shame and criticism that comes with it. We should all be willing to do the same, because at least that way we will keep our principles, and as society begins to shift again we will have a base from which to work from: solid traditional Christian values. By equivocating we just loose respect on all sides and gain zero ground, and prove to many that Christian principles aren't worth holding to (when really they are).

We have seen two very public examples of how to navigate this sexular culture, one is Scott Morrison the compromise candidate who likely will lose his job and his public standing soon, the other is Israel Folau who has lost so much but kept his backbone and inspired millions because of it. I know who I would rather be compared to. I just hope when I am challenged I show the courage to stand firm, I hope all of us who name Jesus Lord will do so.

Thursday 2 May 2019

The Murderer and The Hero

Last weekend something terrible and something incredible happened. The terrible thing that happened was that a young Reformed, professing Christian man, walked into a Synagogue and opened fire on innocent worshippers as they held a Passover celebration. The young man, John Earnest was a regular attendee of his church and according to those who knew him he was a quiet and good student, and he knew his faith very well. He also happened to be a secret white supremacist who has been harbouring hatred for his fellow man.  

The weapon he took into the Chabad of Poway was an AR-15 rifle. The AR-15 is one of the most popular assault rifle platforms because it is versatile, and effective. It is easy to use and easy to train someone to use effectively, which is why many militaries have been using a version of this rifle for decades. Indeed many mass shootings in recent US history have been carried out with the same rifle, and the death tolls in some of those shootings were incredibly large…but not this time. Why?

Well because of the incredible actions of a Jewish military veteran. The Daily Caller reports:

“The man who fired a semi-automatic weapon inside the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego on Saturday froze, dropped his gun and sprinted to his car when he saw Oscar Stewart come barrelling toward him, yelling so loud the priest at a neighbouring church could hear” (Stoltzfoos 2019). 

Stewart's first response to seeing this coward of a man enter a place of worship and open fire on innocent people was to shout to his wife and others around him, “Get down.” And then he ran towards the shooter shouting at him as he ran. What happened next to John Earnest has happened to many cowards as they are confronted by real heroes on the battlefield: he freaked out and ran. Only this wasn’t a battlefield, this was a place where everyone should be safe.

Stewart's shouting was so loud “…others who were there later told him it sounded like four or five people were shouting. He thinks maybe an angel was standing behind him and speaking through his voice” (Stoltzfoos 2019).  The shouting did scare the hell out of the violent kid. When the shooter turned to run, that is run away from an unarmed man who had the courage of a true soldier, that courageous soldier immediately set off after him, chasing him to his car and banging on the window, trying to break in to catch the guy who shot several innocent people and could have killed many. As he was doing this an off duty officer came to his aid.

As a combat veteran Oscar Stewart knew the lethal effectiveness of an AR-15 style rifle first hand. And yet he ran straight at it, risking his life to save the lives others. It’s an amazing thing, and I hope this hero is given all the rewards he deserves. He should never have to work another day in life, the least they could do is exempt him from ever paying taxes again. He is a first class hero, he is a first class man, someone every man should want to emulate and every young boy should be raised to want to be like.

What’s fascinating is that the Jewish Apostle John tells us something about both of these men in his little Epistle known today as 1 John. 1 John 3:11-12 tells us this:

“11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

To murder someone is to be like Cain and to belong to the evil one, the devil. John Earnest may have known his theology well, he may have known that in the Reformed concept of salvation that God chooses who are his and gives them faith, he may have believed that he was one of those chosen, but he has shown through his actions that he is not of God but is of the evil one.

Now John also tells us this: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). As Jesus said, true love is to lay one’s life down for their loved ones (John 15:13). Oscar Stewart displayed more of the image of God in his actions, than the professing believer John Earnest. He displayed the highest form of love, to be willing to sacrifice one’s life for their family and friends.

I am a Christian, and I believe the only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, this is a very different concept of salvation to the Orthodox Judaism Oscar Stewart subscribes to. But out of these two men the one who more closely resembles the kind of sacrifice Jesus made for us all on the cross was the Jewish man who was willing to die on behalf of others, if only he could save some. Thankfully Stewart didn’t die, and thankfully his heroic actions saved many lives on that day. He displayed powerfully an aspect of the image of God that Jesus would have every believer display: the willingness to lay down our lives for others. 

Two men stood out in that Synagogue one a murderer, the other the hero. I know who I would rather be like, the one who was willing to lay down his life to save the lives of others. As for the murderer, well like Cain he has declared his allegiance. May God deal with him as God sees fit, and may justice be swift.