Wednesday, August 07, 2013

on being christian and voting green (#3)

Do you have a philosophical, moral, religious or ethical yard stick against which you measure a political party?  Is there one issue you consider a deal breaker when choosing who to vote for?  Is there a line which, upon being crossed by a political party, prevents you from voting for them?  My answers would be: yes, yes and yes.  With caveats.  

I grew up in a house of black and white.  There were rules and lines and we all knew where we stood - basically do everything Dad said, or else.  However, the older I get, the less I see the world as black and white.  I don't think I've succumbed to sepia or murky grey, more that my world has filled with fabulous colour, variety, contrast and nuance.  I still have a few non-negotiables, but it takes a lot of pushing before I'll resort to them... although thinking about it, I probably pull them out more often than I think.  Maybe I just don't bang on about them so loudly as I once did.  (Is this the point to apologise to my fellow high school students for my many painful attempts to convert you?)

I suspect this is one of the reasons I am comfortable with voting Green. They aren't Christian, and don't claim to be.  My understanding of their history is that they have been actively anti-Christian, though this understanding comes from hearsay rather than personal research or experience.  Looking at this through the good old black and white glasses - they cross the line and shouldn't be voted for.  But swap the glasses for the nuanced outlook, and the line moves.  Actually, more than the line moving, it splinters into multiple lines.  Last night I wrote about one of my lines (justice).  Others include environmental sustainability, foreign aid, renewable energy, asylum seeker policy... I have a lot of lines and I hope to write about more of them over the next few weeks.

Would I like it if the Greens embraced people of faith?  Absolutely.  I've always found it strange that 'progressive' groups who claim to be about justice and openness, freedom and choice on the one hand, are anti-religion and discriminatory in their rhetoric towards those of faith on the other hand.  I'm not thinking so much of the Greens here as New Internationalist.  They write country profiles, judging them on indicators of freedom around homosexuality and political persuasion.  They almost never comment on religious freedom - or, as more often the case may be, the lack of religious freedom.  This strikes me as rather hypocritical, but I guess Christianity has done itself no favours through history.  When it was the dominant religion in the West it did a pretty good job of restricting the freedom of anyone who disagreed.  Perhaps the progressive groups consider it time for some payback.

So, I would value a greater openness towards, and respect for people of faith on the part of the Greens.  However, this is just one of my political party yard sticks, and it isn't the biggest one.  Sure, I'm a school chaplain and a vote for the Greens is effectively a vote against my job, which is a bit of a shame.  (If I thought they were going to get into power I would be lobbying them hard on the school chaplaincy issue.  I might do that anyway.)  But to me, they embody enough of what God is about (see yesterday's post) for me to vote for them.  They tick the boxes in many areas that matter to me more than that they be pro-Christian.

That reminds me of another issue I have with much of today's Christianity.  We have this overweening sense of entitlement, because we are right.  On everything.  Full stop.  Because the Bible is the Word of God and it tells us everything that is right and wrong.  And if we are right, then everything and everyone else is wrong.  We can also dictate how everyone else should live and demand the law ensures everyone lives the right way. Because we are right. Back to that black and white thing.

I just don't see it that way.  I choose to try and live my life in light of the lines I believe can be drawn from the bible.  I don't see why someone who doesn't believe the bible should be brow beaten into my way of living.  Of course there are universal morals and ethics that help keep order in society, and the bible may well have been a major influence in the values we hold as a society, but I don't expect others to live by the standards I hold for myself.  (Heck, I can't even live by them myself sometimes!)  So if the Greens aren't Christian, that's OK.

Here's another thought.  Even though the Greens aren't Christian and don't make any claim on being at all influenced by Christianity, there is still goodness to be found in their beliefs and policies.  I know I've said this before, but there is still a Christian ethic in what they stand for.  This flies in the face of much of the dogma I grew up with.  Christianity seemed to think that because it was right and good, it was the only place where goodness could be found.  I remember my Dad saying in all seriousness that certain people were Catholic, 'but I think they are really Christian.'  He seemed surprised that goodness could be found outside of protestant evangelicalism.  When I talk to some people, they seem to not want to vote Greens because they aren't Christian - and they can't be good if they aren't Christian.  They trip over their lines in the sand.

If you are a black-and-white, line in the sand, yard stick kind of a person, you may think this post is one big exercise in justification by an obviously back slidden Christian.  I can live with that.  One of my favourite bible passages is Romans 8:1, 'There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus'.  My faith journey has caught me by surprise in many ways, and sometimes it scares me (what if I really am back slidden?!).  Mostly though, I love my faith walk and I love God.  I trust God helps me to stay true.

In the meantime, I'm voting Green because I think their positives outweigh their lack of religious beliefs.


At 11:12 am, August 09, 2013, Blogger Valerie "Nick" Page said...

I agree with much of what you've written, but I would argue Bob Brown & the Greens are hugely influenced by Christianity. Quoting Bob:

"My mother sent us all to Presbyterian Sunday School, and so I got a good inculcation into Christianity which is very valuable, because it does give, it is a coming together of the commonsense, humanity which has allowed civilisations in their various forms in the same thread of decency in human behaviour towards each other and explanations as to what we’re doing here, the best people could at the time is there in all the great religions.
I got that from the Presbyterian Sunday School at Trunky Creek and elsewhere, and it’s a very good basis for life."

In my mind, we shouldn't simply vote for whoever says they're a Christian, but rather, which party has policies that reflect Jesus' values.

At 12:11 pm, August 16, 2013, Blogger kris said...

I was about to say the same thing about Bob, I remember him saying that and it was a welcome relief to hear it but you've beaten me to it Nick.

Cecily, I love this blog post, it represents my journey and perspective so articulately and I will now see the greys as not grey but full of colour, thanks.


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