As a further step in “Re-Introducing Nurturing Justice”, I am introducing this link to Nurturing Justice broadsheets from 2006-2007 by making available an exchange between the Monash Vice Chancellor and myself about unanswered questions that have been raised about Monash University’s involvement in human embryo research. The letters published below have been available on-line since 2005. By referring to them I can give a relevant explanation of why I deemed it important to start Nurturing Justice in the first place.
As my on-line contribution promoting a “Christian political option”, they were also an exchange between a Monash graduate and that University’s Vice-Chancellor. Let me briefly focus upon that since it has significant political relevance.
If what I wrote in my letters to the Monash VC was valid then it is also the case that my own public standing as an educated citizen has something to do with my own membership in the Monash University “community”. After the Government induced merger of Chisholm Institute of Technology and Monash University in 1991, I served as lecturer and senior lecturer of sociology in the “greater Monash”. And I am also a Monash graduate having received a BA in 1972.
It is appropriate therefore to introduce this collation of Nurturing Justice articles by drawing attention to what is a self-critical aspect that has to be an integral part of any truly Christian political option.
Let me try to clarify what I am trying to suggest by asking a few questions: how, for instance, should I relate my membership of the Australian political community to the fact that I am a Monash graduate? Let me be frank: when I started out in 1969 as a 1st year under-graduate there was a general expectation in the community that a BA graduate would be listened to, would be someone who would have a part to play in public life. Now almost half a century later and with more than BA qualifications it would seem that many in my situation have views that simply ignored because … well life has become much more diversified and … (fill in one’s own life-story here). Does anyone listen? Well if they do – and I’m always glad to read responses to my blog – there’s no ready-made audience or readership as there was back then in the late 1960s (even if I hadn’t reached the 21st milestone!)
And so, I have found that NJ has to be written in a way that avoids bitterness or merely lamenting one’s own “advocacy of lost causes”.
Further how does my status as a Monash alumnus relate to the ongoing research that takes place within this significant academic institution? And then, how should I view my ongoing attempt to advocate public justice, and in this instance raise my concerns about research in the “life sciences”? Yes such concerns are related to my own responsibility as a scholar, as a citizen because pre-eminently as a follower of Jesus Christ my confession is that scholarship and citizenship are gifts of the Lord, avenues of service for which, I am promised, life is to be found, salvation is to be worked out “in fear and trembling”.
This is not to draw attention to my qualifications so much as to say that my public contribution as a citizen is not unrelated to my status as a Monash university graduate and also former academic. I may work in the expansive field of “social theory” but I have not done so without university qualifications in that arena.
We might expect that the upcoming plebiscite will bring forth politicians claiming to uphold Christian values. But in this “hairy-chested” era of neo-liberal individualism on “all sides” of politics, there seem to be more appeals to phobias to engineer “politically correct” responses from the political “other person” than any genuine call to repentance for one’s evident failings and complicity in bringing about injustice.
So in conclusion, the fact that I began Nurturing Justice with a flurry of letters to the Monash Vice-Chancellor is to be understood as my attempt to acknowledge solidarity with those with whom I deeply, spiritually, disagree. I am thereby committed to nurturing an understanding of public justice that refuses to dodge complex political issues. The initial provocation arose from a scandal that may not have been initiated by senior Liberal-Coalition parliamentarians in Canberra, but it was certainly aided and abetted by their refusal to disclose to the parliament crucial information even as they loudly advocated “Noe”. This is discussed further in the initial edition in the pages that follow.
And so, that briefly explains how Nurturing Justice was inaugurated. The basic insight that propels this project is one of active citizenship in solidarity with fellow citizens who debate and struggle together for justice. The by-line of Nurturing Justice may be “political perspectives that (try to) reckon with the patient rule of Christ Jesus”, but the conviction is that political responsibility is indeed played out in the context of the Lord God’s mercy. Politics takes place in the midst of our incredibly diverse and complex context of institutions, organisations and freely-formed relationships which God bequeathes to us in order that we enjoy the life and abundant gifts he has poured out on His image-bearers.
Readers who may wish to follow this should consult Nurturing Justice Archives for 2006.
The letters from 2oo6 with Tony Abbott are also worth reading. See the next post. They show the kind of “closure” that is the inevitable end of an approach that pragmatically accommodates principles to a statist ideology. We see this also with the current Treasurer’s attitude to the plebiscite and any legislation that will derive from it.
Bruce Wearne, Point Lonsdale, 13th September 2016 (Based upon NJ 12 September 2013)