Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The Christian Vote and the Federal Election

A few months ago I was interviewed by ABC television's program, 4 Corners, when Liz Jackson asked me whether I thought the "Christian vote" would have any bearing on the upcoming Federal election. My answer surprised her. I stated emphatically that I thought the Christian vote would determine the outcome of the election! She immediately questioned me again on this matter and I re-stated my answer. Now that the election has been and gone I can say "I told you so!" The Christian vote determined the outcome of the 2007 Australian Federal Election.

It has been widely acknowledged that the Christian vote was a significant factor in the outcome of the 2003 Federal Election. For the first time in a long time several elected parliamentarians unashamedly declared their Christian commitment. The entrance of the Family First Party caught many commentators off guard and wondering how such a new political party could gain around 2% of the national vote in its first foray into national politics.

What these political observers had failed to detect was the level of frustration among middle Australians who were fed up with hostile, adversarial, politicking and extreme minority groups pushing for extreme legislation changes on marriage, drugs, crime, abortion, euthanasia and terrorism. The problem was compounded because those arguing for moral absolutes were generally on the Conservative side of politics and coincidentally generally happened to be Christians. Their Christian values then became the target for those on the other side of the politics which tended to sway the sympathies of middle Australia to the Conservatives.

At the 2003 Federal Election the choice was stark for Christian voters: Prime Minister Howard an unapologetic church-going Christian, or, Mark Latham an unabashed atheist who thought little of Christian values. But this election was different...

Kevin Rudd has little in common with Mark Latham. And perhaps his greatest endorsement as a good bloke was when Mark Latham published his biography and referred to Kevin Rudd as "a terrible piece of work". Coming from Latham that was ironically glowing praise! Kevin Rudd did much behind the scenes to appease the Christian vote. He met privately with many national church leaders and asked them what Labor had to do to win their support. Being a forthright church-going Christian, Kevin Rudd was not prepared for Christians of Australia to continue to think that being a Christian voter meant being a Conservative voter. He challenged this as he spoke to church groups and Christian gatherings around Australia. He especially courted the Pentecostals and met with nearly all of the leading Pentecostal movements to share his vision for Australia.

Because Kevin Rudd shares John Howard's Christian commitment it was inevitable that many of his value-laden policies would closely resemble the Prime Minister's. This then led to a huge tactical problem for the Conservative political strategists. And this is where they made a fatal political mistake. Instead of challenging the content of Mr Rudd's policy agenda (which they were essentially neutralised from doing, eventually causing them to claim in frustration that Kevin Rudd was a "Me too!" candidate) they made their attacks personal and nasty. They tried to equate the words "Trade Unionist" and "inexperienced" with "evil". It didn't go down well with the Christian vote. It looked desperate.

It was contrasted with Kevin Rudd's message of "new leadership" which would focus on educating children better, caring for the marginalised, and making workplaces fairer. This seemed to echo some very traditional Christian values. Added to this, Kevin Rudd was careful not to discuss issues of "Gay" marriage, abortion, euthanasia which most Christians find non-negotiable. But then there was the environment...

The Conservatives had for a long time generally failed to appreciate the dire warnings of scientists regarding the reality of the affect of carbon emissions on Climate Change. Kevin Rudd didn't.

In Tasmania there was no greater environmental issue than the proposed Pulp Mill. This had become an extremely provocative environmental issue which seemed to have the support of both State and Federal Conservatives. Kevin Rudd somehow seemed to distance himself from the proposal and process and thereby left it up to the Conservatives to argue why the Pulp Mill should go ahead. Some Christian voters saw through this though and despite almost insurmountable battles with their consciences voted Green instead either major Party (perhaps not realising that a vote for the Greens was ultimately a vote for the Pulp-Mill-supporting Labor Party). This was evidenced around Tasmania where Christian ministers were seen handing out Greens How-To-Vote cards on Polling Day. The Greens then gained the largest proportion of the Tasmanian Christian vote they have ever received which has seen their Lower House vote and their Senate vote go to record levels.

Mr Rudd courted and it seems eventually won the Christian vote. Christians want good economic management where the marginalised are looked after and the entrepreneur can flourish simultaneously. Christians want our borders protected but not at the expense of incarcerating already traumatised children behind razor-wire fences. Christians want development but not at the expense of poor environmental stewardship. Christians want everyone looking for a job to find one but not by the compulsory forfeiting of weekends, penalty-rates, or reasonable job-security. Christians want the sacredness of those who bear the image of God from conception to be afforded the right to life and that the institution which delivers this to be a unique privilege between one man with one woman for life. If Mr Rudd has any mandate he at least has a mandate from the Christian vote to deliver this. Christians should pray that he does.

Andrew Corbett

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

John 3:16

Perhaps the most well known verse of the New Testament is John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. This is perhaps the most succinct verse in the New Testament about why God saves, how God saves, and who God saves. It follows immediately after Christ had told one of the greatest Religious teachers of the day that he needed a spiritual experience to be made right with God. To Nicodemus, a man who thought that being religious, moral, ethical and knowledgeable, Christ's words hit hard. "How can this be?" Nicodemus queried. And Christ's answer culminates in the words of John 3:16. Consider how shocking Christ's words are...

What is the stand-out word of John 3:16? For those looking for insights about God's heart, the outstanding word is "loved". For those looking for insights about God's offer, the outstanding word is "gave". For those looking for the outstanding word about the identity of God the word "Son" is the word that reveals the Triune identity of God. For those wondering who qualifies for God's love and the offer of His Son's sacrifice the word "whosoever" is the sweetest word they will ever read. For those striving to be right with God, the word "believes" commands rest to their weary soul. For those who arrogantly think that there are no consequences for their godless lives, the word "perish" should arrest them. And for those who question why this life is often unjust, tragic, and unrewarding, there is the wonderful description of the sublime quality of life that awaits summed up in the majestic word "eternal".

"God", "loved", "gave", "whosoever", "believes", "perish" and "eternal" - these are majestic and invaluable words that when put together as John 3:16 become perhaps the most unfathomable verse in the Bible. Whereas the numbers 9/11 conjure up thoughts and emotions of destruction and despair, the numbers "3:16" are now, according to Max Lucado- "the numbers of hope."

Andrew Corbett

Thursday, 15 November 2007


strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Acts 14:22

Jesus said that it is better to enter into the Kingdom of God without both eyes than to see perfectly and end up in Hell. Losing eyes or limbs is not nice, but might be good...And it seems that history bears out that God's dealings with those He elects to salvation often means that they are deprived of certain niceties (like having both eyes and all limbs) and that they even suffer (Mark 9:47) . The problem of suffering while following an All-Powerful and Good God has perplexed people for thousands of years. While we may not comprehend why God would allow people to suffer, we can most certainly apprehend two facts: (i) God is sovereign, just and good, and (ii) People who suffer often testify that are the better because of it.

I find the entire chapter of Romans 8 most helpful and comforting in trying to understand this mystery of why God would allow people to suffer. "For I consider", says the battle-hardened apostle Paul, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18) Paul goes on to say that in the midst of our confusion, we must "wait patiently" (Rom. 8:25) and look to the Holy Spirit to give us strength (Rom. 8:26). He then culminates in the diamond-verse of pastoral counsel when he says-

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for thse who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

It's hard for us to think of "good" and not think of "nice". It's therefore hard for us to think that a Good God would allow things that are not nice. But this is not the Biblical portrayal of God's goodness. Nice is obsessed with "now" benefits. Good is about "eternal" benefits. God will will people to suffer if it is for the ultimate good. The greatest example of this is the death of His own Son on the Cross. It might be nice to have a good think about that.

Andrew Corbett

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Where Do "Values" Come From?

The impending Australian Federal Election has spawned a new vocabulary among the candidates. The old words that once featured prominently- economy, budget, inflation, unemployment, debt, trade - have taken a subjugated place to the new language of - family and values. I attended a forum of ten candidates last night where they each affirmed their belief in "family" and "family values". It seems that they've 'sniffed the wind'. But that's about where the commonality stopped.

Family values to one candidate meant the right of a woman to "have control over her own reproductive system". To another candidate it meant tolerance and acceptance for other people and their choices no matter what their sexual preference. To another candidate it meant supplying intravenous needles for herione and cocaine addicts and freely distributing condoms to promote "safe sex". To another candidate "Family values" simply meant showing respect for others. And yet another candidate affirmed family values in her own family by pointing to her children and the role their father plays in their upbringing.

One candidate who was trying to appeal to the Christian Vote then claimed that while she was not a Christian, she shared the "values of Jesus". This, she said, was summed up by Christ's words: 'a fair go for all' - which she said was His core message. Hmmm...

So we have people who have family values and even share the values of Jesus yet don't support marriage, don't uphold the sanctity of life, don't believe following Jesus requires spiritual conversion, and even think that Jesus came to promote "a fair go for all". It seems that the word "values" is fast becoming nonsensical if people using the term would have us believe that white is black and black can be white!

Values come from convictions which then shape our ideas and opinions. Naturally our convictions are initially formed by beliefs which is the information we have received and considered to be aligned with the truth. Perhaps this is where people like me have failed in the information stage of values-formation when it comes to the "values of Jesus" because I and my colleagues have not adequately portrayed the Biblical Jesus to the values-forming public.

Andrew Corbett