Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rudd on religion and politics

Tim over at Road to Surfdom took a little swipe at Kevin Rudd yesterday for his attempts at selling the ALP as a party that has it's values firmly rooted in Christian philosophy. Tim seems to be mostly concerned with what he perceives to be attempts by politicians from both sides of the aisle to Americanize Australian politics.

Well, I took a little swipe back because I'm not so sure that this is what is happening. While not wanting to strawmanize Tim, I think that he thinks that (God I love that phrase) Rudd's attempts to sell the ALP as a natural choice for Christians will just lead to a war of escalation for the Christian vote between the ALP and the Coalition. I think that there is a real risk of this, but I'm not convinced that it is the only way that this can play out.

I think that over the last 10 years we've seen the right in Australia frequently play the Christian moral card in order to get votes. I think, arguably, that the most blatant proponent of this, at the Federal level, is Tony Abbott. Since the last election we have seen Abbott, and a number of his allies, try to enforce his dogmatic view of Christianity upon the electorate. Most notably through the whole RU486 debate of last year. I fear that if the ALP does nothing about this, and tries to "keep secular" then they will find that the Coalition will not only have moved to the Christian right, but they will have dragged a significant portion of the electorate over to their position.

Kevin Rudd seems to be, quite rightly (sorry, bad pun), pointing out that there are many aspects of Christian philosophy that Tony Abbott, and more generally the Liberal Party, are not a champions for. Christianity is not about the abortion debate. Christianity is about euthanasia. Christianity is not about the War on Drugs, nor the War on Terror. Christianity is a complex religion, with many competing views. Many of these views are held in common with both the Liberal and Labor parties. No single political party can claim absolutely that they represent the "Christian" view, though it is my own personal opinion that the ALP better represents Christian views on social justice than the current Coalition government. This seems to be also where Kevin Rudd is coming from.

I guess the whole point of this post is to say that politics and religion have always been intertwined. Politics is about decision making and that cannot be done in a vacuum. Neither the left nor the right can claim any religion as their own, and any attempt to do so should be blocked by vigorous argument.