Voting for a real change

By David Wood
25 Nov 2007

Well, the election results have been declared and Australia has a new Prime Minister. Kevin Rudd is a practicing Anglican, of the Queensland kind, so alive to the tradition of Christian generosity rather than the moralistic parsimony that has overrun other parts of the Church.

The new premier has been tagged ‘me too’, having played along with enough Howard doctrines to get himself elected, but now we will see what he's really made of.

At least he seems human, which is welcome after nearly twelve very long years. For my part, I'll be happy if we now have a fairer, gentler, less fearful and less selfish Australia. Howard was divide-and-rule, the master of wedge politics. It has been hugely destructive. Hopefully, Kevin Rudd will be a bit more straightforward.

Then there’s the all-important question of how we got here. Voting in Australia is a requirement of the law. But some people still moan about it in spades. If voting this weekend felt like a chore, I commented in a local newspaper, think of Burma.

What we do at the ballot box is “not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly: but reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God”. (That’s the seventeenth century Anglican rubric on marriage, in case you were wondering.)

Voting is a precious freedom, and government of the fickle by the fickle for the fickle is little better than military dictatorship. In certain respects, anyway.

In this Australian election campaign I have received more unsolicited ‘how to vote’ mail than ever before. “Life issues like abortion and cloning human embryos are not the only ones that concern us as Christians. Marriage and family is under threat, as is our freedom of speech. It is certainly time for a strong Christian voice in our world”, declared one plaintiff.

Yes, it is time to speak out, but not with a selfish Christian voice to benefit like-minded Christians. What credit is that to you; unbelievers do the same, do they not? Likewise, obsession with the economy, interest rates, and housing - there is more at stake than our own backyard and my hip pocket.

What distinguishes a strong Christian vote from a strong Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist vote? Or an agnostic or atheist vote?

Voting really motivated by faith rather than fear is fundamentally humanitarian. We concern ourselves with the weak and voiceless, refugees claiming our protection, dignity and equality before the law – even for suspected terrorists.

Privatized morality slips quickly from view as we focus on health and education for all, drought relief for our farmers, climate change, and generous foreign aid for poorer nations.

Every responsible vote supports ‘Advance Australia fair’ – fair in every sense: just, compassionate, reputable, peaceable, unblemished, and beautiful.

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(c) David Wood is an Australian-based writer, theologian and commentator. An Ekklesia associate, he is author of Poet, Priest and Prophet (CTBI: 2002), an intellectual biography of the late Bishop John V Taylor, one of the most widely acclaimed ecumenical mission theologians of the twentieth century. He also contributed to Consuming Passion (DLT: 2005). He is parish priest of Grace Church Joondalup and Anglican Chaplain to Edith Cowan University, Perth. His church website is: http://www.joondalupanglican.com/

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