Voting on Faith
I know this is a cultural studies blog, not a religious one, but I often blog about politics, and given the attention to the influence of religion in politics in recent years (especially the influence of the so-called “Christian Right”), I’m going to go for it. Besides that, I’m seriously pissed off and this election campaign is not doing anything to soothe me.
I was talking to a relative the other day who said they could not vote for Bob Brown because he screws men (actually, this person said “a poof”), and couldn’t vote for Julia Gillard because she is an atheist. Well, I can’t vote for Tony Abbott because he has a track record of screwing the poor and vulnerable. I’ve also been getting emails from another family member urging me to pray for our leaders, couched in right wing imagery referring to our “Heritage”. The assumption is that of course I will vote for the Coalition, or Family First, because they will uphold our “Christian” values. I won’t.
I will vote on the basis of my faith.
A couple of years ago I read the Bible cover to cover. It seems to me that throughout the old and new testaments, God’s consistent message to his people through his prophets and his son is summed up, as Jesus says, in the command to love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself. And right from the time that he said it, people have been disputing what that means and trying to find loopholes in the definition of ‘neighbour’. The prophets’ message was to look after the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners in the land, i.e. the poor and vulnerable.
We do not show love to our neighbour or look after the poor and vulnerable when we stir hate and fear against asylum seekers, deny them full human dignity, and refuse to meet their needs. When we treat them as a ‘problem’ that we try to offload to someone or somewhere else.
We do not show love or look after the poor and vulnerable when we blame the unemployed for their situation while creating economic conditions that benefit global capitalism and powerful corporations at their expense and the expense of low-paid workers. We do not show love when we demand that young people uproot themselves and move away from their home, family, and support networks to take up jobs. John Howard would not do it as Prime Minister, yet Tony Abbott as his Minister for Employment Services tried to make that a condition for young jobseekers. On that point, nor do you show love when you constantly represent young unemployed people as lacking in skills, motivation, and a work ethic; when you diminish their initiative and efforts in order to convince people that your government is tough in cracking down on welfare “cheats”, when you deny people on welfare the autonomy and dignity accorded to other citizens. We do not show love when we value people primarily according to their contribution to the market economy.
We do not show love when we decide that there are not enough resources to properly support the homeless, the mentally ill, people with disabilities, or indigenous peoples. We do not show love when health, education, and infrastructure in our outer suburbs and rural areas are stretched to breaking point. And while others of us have access to the best of health care, education facilities, powerful connections, and privileged living conditions. This difference is not inevitable. It is the result of choices and priorities in our actions, policies, and values.
We do not show love to anyone when we allow some people to be used as pawns in a political game to win the votes of others in marginal electorates.
We do not show love when we discriminate against people on the basis of race, gender, religion, or sexuality. That is not ‘right relationship’, and if we are not in right relationship with our neighbours, how can we be in right relationship with God?
We do not show love and look after the poor and vulnerable when we fail to look after our environment. When we allow the few to exploit its resources to make immense profits and to oppress, blackmail, or override the rights of people whose livelihoods depend on the land they raid. When our lifestyles contribute to changes in climate stability so that people here and in other parts of the world face increasingly severe storm events, droughts, floods, salinity, food and water shortages, and loss of land.
So, who will I vote for? That’s a good question. There’s really not a lot of choice. I know it won’t be for the Coalition or Labor on the basis of their policies on asylum seekers, welfare, and the environment. Nor will it be for those who are trying to court my vote on the basis of some so-called “Christian Heritage” that denigrates people on the basis of their religion or sexuality. For me, being a Christian and voting on faith means looking for parties and independents with policy platforms that at least approximate something like we might get if we truly loved our neighbours as ourselves, whether or not the candidates claim to be “Christian”. Love is of God, but it is certainly not an exclusive property of Christians (or heterosexuals), and for me, too many self-proclaimed Christians in politics fail to demonstrate love in their policies and actions.