Challenges for a prime minister who claims to be a person of faith
One of the first things our new Prime Minister did after his appointment was to pray and to make it clear that he is a person of faith. Of course, there are many forms of Christianity, as well as other faiths. That is why we have numerous Christian denominations and even varieties of churches within each denomination. However, if we take the Bible seriously and see the words of Jesus Christ within it, there are some things which are very central to genuine Christian life and which we would expect to see lived out by believers.
The role of political leadership is so powerful it can invite us to look more clearly at issues before us and to consider ways of creating justice, compassion and respect for all people.
So what would we expect from the leader concerned if he or she makes it clear that Christian faith is central to life?
In fact, at the centre of the Christian faith is the command of Christ to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Often people who claim to be faithful to their God point to their prosperity as a sign that God is rewarding them, when in fact God is looking for those who love their neighbours. Those who truly love their neighbours rescue the most vulnerable, make sure that suffering ceases and share life with others in all sorts of ways which bring justice and compassion.
So, when, for example, will we hear that our Christian Prime Minister is about to rescue those suffering people who have been forced off our land to the Island of Nauru? We all know about desperate little children there at risk of ill health and death because they have little to eat and no support, alongside suffering adults.
If it is regarded as appropriate Christian behaviour to allow this to happen because people are refugees who have tried to enter our land, we might recall that, apart from the Indigenous people, all of us simply came to this land and took it from its owners. Now we act as though we have every right to push other desperate people away and have offered little justice and true recognition to the real owners – no formal treaty to recognise their history, problems for their children within education and employment, quite apart from racism.
There are no simple answers to these issues, but a Christian leader could indicate the need to work out what loving our neighbours as ourselves might involve in the days ahead, and what it might mean in relation to refugees.
What has Prime Minister Morrison asked of us?
It sounds as though rejecting refugees is one of his priorities alongside a focus on aged care facilities. The focus on aged care facilities is obviously an expression of love for vulnerable neighbours, one which would be a popular choice, although setting up a Commission to do research avoids what could be an immediate response to things like the obvious lack of staff in almost all facilities. The number of issues around refugees is not easy to deal with, especially if they are seen to be our neighbours, but at least the Prime Minister could acknowledge the profound questions.
One would hope that a prime minister who makes a real feature of being a person of Christian faith would see it as a calling to challenge us and inspire in us new ways of loving our neighbours, alongside dealing with other issues as a community.
What would it mean to provide significant accommodation for homeless people, greater financial commitments to overseas aid for the desperately needy people around the world and acceptance of people we see as different from ourselves? This last would challenge Scott Morrison’s commitment to separating his children from schools which are inclusive of people who are of differing sexualities and genders.
Why would people in this last group have a six times higher rate of suicide than the rest of the community, if they were simply choosing their own indulgent ways of behaving, rather than genuinely being part of God’s good creation?
In his maiden speech as a member of the federal parliament, the Prime Minister said that personal faith is not a political agenda. However, how do we live out faith in the ways which he described as being about justice, compassion and kindness if it does not affect our political agenda, especially if a person is a political leader?
Scott Morrison says that Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is one of his heroes, but no one in the church was more involved in the political work of Nelson Mandela than Desmond Tutu.
And if, as our Prime Minister suggests, wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, how can we possibly worship a God who supports the rich and powerful, rather than those who are often starving because of the activities of such people?
So Prime Minister, tell us what you really believe it means to love our neighbours. You could lift us into a new community of grace and justice.