Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I didn’t vote for God

CHURCH AND STATE: Politics, Religion and Policy in Australia


Since the Howard government was voted in over 10 years ago, the line between government and religion has become less discernable. This has helped shape a conservative landscape turning the clock back on hard won rights for average Australians.

This is probably one of the main reasons our allegiance (which many refer to as blind allegiance) to the USA has become such a powerful influence particularly in reference to foreign policy.

The US has known this sullying of the division between church and state for many decades now, recently culminating in the reign of the Bush family. G W Bush is a born again Christian, an evangelical fundamentalist who wages war on anything that is not White, Anglo Saxon, Christian, Heterosexual, Nuclear Family (“Nucular”) and above all, Capitalist Democracy.

And Australia continues to follow along behind.

Do we need to re-instate Capital punishment before people sit up and take notice? I certainly hope not.

But why is this happening? Are we, as a nation, becoming more religious? The answer is no. In fact, the answer is that Australia is less religious than before. It is our politicians, harvested from the conservative elite in society, who are becoming more religious. And why not? They have easy lives, many being born into wealthy or political families. They go to good schools (religious schools) and attain influential positions in our society. They can thank God or anyone they like each and every day for the bounties bestowed on them.

The one thing they don’t have, is perspective. Here, like in the US they do not live in the same society as their constituents. Whilst they are spending millions of dollars on political campaigns for the honour and privileges that getting into office can bring, the average Australian struggles to scrape together enough rent money each week. The luckier ones, those who can afford to buy a house, compromise and borrow way too much to live somewhere they don’t like, spending the rest of their lives juggling repayments amid interest rate rises, land rates and the inequality of the Tax system.

The Australian Democrats have put together a discussion paper on this topic, but I wish more people would get on board.

“The churches now run more publicly funded schools and universities and public hospitals, aged care and employment services on behalf of government and can use these services to proselytise or to exclude those with other beliefs. This relationship with government can compromise the social justice function of the traditional churches in speaking out about the treatment of refugees, the attack on Iraq, on industrial relations and on poverty and indeed these churches in particular have been attacked by government for doing so.”

Churches also don’t pay tax, even for commercial endeavours.

Prime Minister John Howard is a Christian, Minister Tony Abbott trained to be a Catholic priest and even Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd (our only hope) is a devout Christian.

Whilst I don’t think that Churches dictate to government regarding policy, it is more than just apparent that the top of our political pile is dominated by conservative Christians. This has already affected Foreign Policy and Immigration. It is also beginning, through Church owned enterprises, to affect services and employment. So where does it end?

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