When Do We Want It? Now!

The recent BBC report detailing latest survey results on Australian opinion about marriage and parenting is an effective endorsement of the observations made in our blog yesterday. In this instance the report simply gives yet another example of the prevailing neo-liberal modus operandi that dominates reporting the mass media by claiming simply to give the “facts” of what is “trending”. The presumed ethical imperative of the report is that since there is now a new “middle ground” of support for “marriage equality” all parliamentary opposition should simply fall away and it won’t be long before the Australian Parliament will “join the club” of polities and embrace such a “progressive” recognition.

Go back and look at the survey that has now been referred to in the article. It is a discussion of the The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia report delivered by Professor Roger Wilkins of Melbourne University. From what the BBC reveals of the “facts” and “what is trending” (note not only the heading but also the sentimentalist photograph of those who are obviously excluded by a cruel fate), it might just as easily be concluded that the “facts”, and the “facts of the trends” as reported, tell us that the Australian citizenry is now no longer qualified nor capable of a coherent  public legal understanding of what is at stake in “marriage equality”.  The survey as reported by the BBC has as much credibility as a survey on whether public ice-cream should be made available for all primary schools. Yes, the BBC is an integral part of the political crisis we face.

And so, the international mass media, led by the NYT and the BBC, are adding their agitprop to the aether to get the Australian Federal Parliament to …. what? To endorse their longer-term agitprop for “progressive legislation”? We can begin to see how this crisis is upon us in ways that have been hitherto hidden and hence unexpected.

But just for the record consider the following “profound shifts” that have historically preceded the BBC’s “profound shift” in Australian views. Let’s try and list a few of these earlier shifts simply to identify how this chant:

“What do we want? Equal love! When do we want it? Now!”

sends echoes of a serious historical lack of awareness.

1.  When the Australian Parliament finally decriminalised homosexuality in the 1970s it was on the back of a Royal Commission that examined human relationships in toto. Crucial to the material considered by that Royal Commission was the submission by the leading “gay rights” organisation Campaign Against Moral Persecution that same-sex relationships were not to be judged as illicit de facto marriages but relationships of their own family and household character.

2. Since the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1970s, the two major “sides” in the nation’s parliaments (Labor and Liberal-National) have repeatedly and concertedly tried to safe-guard their own share of electoral support by the effective privatisation of (what Nurturing Justice continues to refer to as) “Marriage, Family, Household” the central and most productive sector of the national (and international) economy – even as it carries, as it must, an unpriceable market value. More and more the political parties have simply avoided losing votes because of what are seen as potentially unpopular policies and policy-frameworks. And so we have seen the increasing reliance upon “conscience vote” which might safeguard, in some distorted sense, the integrity of an individual Parliamentarian, but which further unhinges and disconnects that elected representative from his/her electors. Across all electorates therefore a persistent political fact that a significant sector of the citizens who have a non-libertarian way of life are effectively wedged out of political debate (ironically, even when the individual voter him/herself may have voted for the “winning” candidate).

3. There has been for a century “popular culture” and philosophical views that have systematically denigrated the marriage institution. One popular expression of this since 1978 has been the Sydney Mardi Gras. Presumably, even with the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the “marriage institution” and in particular, those advocating public-legal respect for marriage, was “fair game” for public ridicule and has been ever since. And now despite what has in retrospect become merely an initial “ambit claim” that same-sex relationships were not to be considered as marriages, we have a persistent claim that they are marriages anyway and need to be recognised by a legislated “equalising” redefinition of the institution itself. And so when the Leader of the Opposition refused to support a plebiscite (quite apart from the fear of “marriage equality” supporters that such a vote would not obtain the necessary votes, given Donald Trump’s election, the Brexit vote and New Zealand’s failure to change its flag) we had the highly selective moral outrage of Mr Shorten and his crew that sensitive young people would be put at risk by such a publicly funded plebiscite. So where is the moral outrage at the persistent denigration of the marriage institution that has been regularly endorsed by the now ritual attendance of wind-vane politicians.

4. Nurturing Justice has been persistent in observing the ongoing consequences of the former Liberal Prime Minister’s failure to abide by his pre-election guarantee to his electors in Bennelong that he was opposed to embryonic stem-cell research. Since that time in Australia, and in fact from before that time, human seed and human eggs have become “commodities” for pseudo-Messianic bio-medical and pharmaceutical research. The consequence of Mr Howard’s failure on this matter – he should have resigned his seat, allowing his deputy to take over, and gone back to his electors to be re-elected. He didn’t and, as we have pointed out repeatedly, the Liberal Party has since become merely a public relations firm that now Mr Turnbull is trying to hold together but cannot do so even on his own terms that party unity must prevail because to take a policy stand will be to split the conservative forces and allow Labor to take the reins of Government.

5. The idea that marriage is a right is basic to this chant. However, the global movement for “marriage equality”, with its “When do we want it? NOW!” mantras does not address the question of why first the UN hasn’t been petitioned to amend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or even International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Could it be that that way of proceeding simply would not pass in any vote? Moreover, would it not demonstrate, and bring to the fore just how much this movement is a neo-colonial moral crusade?  Australia, as a leading polity in this region, has an international obligation to its neighbours but that matter is never raised.

6. Finally, with all the restrictions imposed by the alternative public relations firms (political machines) upon the public dissemination (sic!) of coherent public policies for marriage, family and household, we face a situation in which (read the above BBC article again carefully with respect to child-bearing) human seed (sperm and ova) is simply consider a de-regulated commodity. What are we to say about the new emergent forms of human slavery that have to be considered in this context?

The Melbourne University report has, as we have suggested, a wholly unintended consequence: its results can just as easily be read to conclude that the Australian public is now neither qualified nor capable of making a public-legal judgment upon legislation that would have a direct bearing upon the public and legal definition of the structures of “marriage, family and household”.

And Nurturing Justice is suggesting to the Australian Christian Lobby that its extra-parliamentary efforts to have a petition presented to the Senate to allow a plebiscite on same-sex marriage as per the Liberal Party’s election platform, is now politically misconceived. Giving Christians an opportunity to “vent” by saying “No” in such a petition is fair enough; but a plebiscite whatever its outcome puts off until another day the need for political parties to actually reform themselves and hence re-jig their own view of what a party is. And that task means finding a way to properly represent in our parliaments those electors across the Commonwealth who will never agree to what is implied in this misconceived, historically ignorant, mass movement for “marriage equality”.

We should be constant in prayer that in time, the Lord God in His mercy, will enable us to see more clearly what is being dissolved in the structure of our citizenship and how this impacts marriage, family, household and friendship. Can we face up to the worrying fact that we are preventing ourselves from seeing politically what is now staring us in the face? Yes it is persistently obscured and befogged by a thoroughly compromised mass media. And “marriage equality” is indeed one prominent issue that is turning Parliamentary Democracy away from just representation and a public justice mentality for public governance. It has capitulated to the results of what are now “winner take all” public opinion surveys. Parliamentary accountability to electors needs to be rediscovered and that will also have to be part of  the difficult task of working toward a genuine Christian political option over the next decades.

BCW 3 August 2017

The Mass Media’s Balancing of Our Political Crisis

The difficulty we face in confronting the political crisis that has gripped the West (and perhaps we would have to say it is a crisis that has been running with foot flat to the boards for well over a century) is also manifest in an ongoingly corrosive way in the mass media.

   Like Alan Storkey, readers will appreciate the desire of “post-academic” and “retired” bloggers to be perpetually provoked by “local” contexts. And so, dear reader, you have Nurturing Justice. Thanks for your toleration.

   In yesterday’s post I tried to identify the deep problem of the neo-neutralist journalism of the major mass media outlets. It is a post-postmodern view of “millennials” who find themselves employed in jobs that require them to maintain “balanced reporting” in what they write (as well as trying to dispense with the former “essentialist” critique of objectivity).

   What we now experience is a persistent reliance in media analysis upon a presumption that “balance” in reporting means finding an “objective middle ground” among all the competing (subjective) opinions so that fairness can be ascribed to all views. And then what happens as we read the reports? What is ascribed as the normative subjective standard for “balanced”, “professional” journalism by the journalist, actually finds its way into the analysis by the dogma that public governance is actually and always subject to a similar balancing act (i.e. in the sphere of politics rather than the sphere of “just reporting” on politics). And we might say the rest is … ideology. We get what we receive – the “news” is all about how public governance is now, as ever, subject to the major agents of political machination who, all in their own ways, either seek to find middle ground or, presumably rejecting “balance”, claim to recast the entire polity by careering ahead with their own marginal agendas, and regular Tweets. And hence the “extremists” are classified as those dispensing with “balance”, except the people concern counter by saying they are dispensing with what “powerful interests” merely say is “balanced”.

   The “extremists” are very often in deep reaction to the “balancing act” of those seeking to capture the “middle ground” which they say is nothing other than self-interest. And they, for their part, from the “extremes” claim to be claiming to create a new middle ground. And so journalism that gives a “balanced account of the political crisis” from its own presumed “middle” needs to maintain credibility by continuing to construe alternatives in terms of extremes, and balance alternative balancing acts.

   And from there appeals to a normative standard of public justice are reduced to merely subjective appeals by those with opinions – so, the important thing for assessing opinions is that they be rightly “centred”, located on the middle ground, in other words “balanced”. And how is this middle ground discovered? Principle is whatever is “emergent”, whatever will give a new angle, or ensure a new cache of votes; at least it can be said to be a principle until the next election.

   In this context elections have become a kind of nation-wide mandated public opinion survey. Presumably they are necessary to ensuring our ongoing role as citizens. What we have to worry about politically is whatever is “emergent” in the revelations of popular opinion in response to a left-right (mythic) cosmological principle, and opinion polling is now in please to measure and orchestrate social and public issues because it is by changing people’s opinions that reality is restructured according to human demands.

   But as much as we can see this at work in the “mainstream”, it is a view that is present, and almost impossible to shake, whenever we engage in informal political discussion with our neighbours. It is not just the mercenary and greedy mass media. The appeal to what is “immanent” in public opinion is widely considered to be the true route to human fulfilment on the corporate scale. Such an appeal is also present in a recent Christianity Today analysis claiming to assist reader “understanding” of trends among post-Trump evangelical millennial women.

   Whatever normative maybe, what is measured as normal becomes the principle for how public governance in all of its dimensions is going to unfold. An earlier form of this “immanence” was that political parties by their electoral majorities determined what is normative for public governance – election winners had the permission of political sentiment to “transcend” mere opinion and elevate their platform into (hopefully timeless) legislation. The hope was that it time it would become the norm for normal, balanced life.

   With the corrosion of political parties we see the transformation of the rule of the myth of the “centre”, the “fulcrum” from which “balance” (and hence public justice) is to be discerned. This says: market research rules! Political parties, and Christian-evangelical reflection that runs on these same tracks, is headed toward a populist obeisance to little more than the advertising of public relations firms that have produced “results” for their “political side” (or in CT’s case their journal’s market niche) in a competition to bring right worship to the idol of “balance”. (And then after this blog was posted we read the latest “market research” on people’s opinions about marriage and parenting and the results are that the “middle ground” is now certainly in favour of SSM – and now it is the BBC that lends its hand to maintain the balance …).

   Could it be that we are currently experiencing the judgment of the Almighty which, in the words of Alan Storkey, comes not from God’s vindictiveness, but “because we get things wrong and face the consequences of our false normativity”? Is not that error stalking the earth at this time?


BCW 2.8.17



Party Unity and Winning Elections

Those advocating a Christian political option need to assess what is going on in “the news”. To appreciate the distance between our system of public governance, and parliament’s place and contribution therein, and what is presupposed by our constitution, we only need to listen carefully to the “best and most” reliable, the “educated” news sources (e.g. those that avoid the ranting of the shockjocks – in Victoria ABC 621, 774 and News Radio). It will not take long before we notice how even publicly funded broadcasting is thoroughly embedded in the political crisis that our major parties are presuming to make their own. It is the character of this inner crisis that all too often is all too conveniently ignored in the reporting of “news”. All appeals to “but we are committed to balanced reporting of both sides” simply fall away in such critical circumstances.

The reliable reporting is apparently all about “balance”; and so to report normatively on an ongoing crisis might then tip the balance and become “unbalanced”. Why does this appeal to “balance” hinder genuine normative judgment? The actual and factual (not fake news) political crisis is being played out in the reports that “mainline news reports” continue to present. Take as an example what we will call the current “Twittered rumour” from Liberal Party back-benchers that they are threatening to cross the floor in order to have same-sex marriage legislated by this Parliament before the end of its term in office. It is a good example of the ABC (and others) capitulating to agitprop; the demand is made in the context of the Liberal Party’s fear of losing the next election and some in marginal seats have their hearts set on a political “career” – a parliamentarian’s “career” is a notion somewhat foreign to the underlying presuppositions of our Federal constitution’s understanding of parliamentary representation and was certainly abhorent Alfred Deakin. These “Liberals” obviously believe that the other “side” has captured the SSM vote. Further, they feel stranded by the platform commitment last time that got them elected – their own side’s attempt to resolve the issue Tony Abbott’s way via a plebiscite – and so with insufficient members in the Senate to pass the enabling legislation it has had to lapse even as it is still said (by some) to be policy.

And so, when we hear this report we hear that these Parliamentarians have said that there must be legislation in this Parliament. What are we hearing here? Is it Parliamentarians of the Liberal Party addressing the Parliament? Is it Liberal Party members addressing the Government? Is it Liberal Party members addressing their own party, requiring the party to demolish its own platform upon which these parliamentarians were elected on the Government side of the house? The fact is that these questions are completely ignored by “balanced” and “factual” reporting and that fact confirms that we are mid-stream in a crisis – not only of public governance but of public reporting. And clearly, in terms of Australia’s system of Government, as presupposed by our Constitution, these back-bench parliamentarians are reducing government to what is convenient to their party’s prospects at the next election.

In these probes, these thoroughly opportunistic politicians completely disregard the platform upon which they were elected – they are obviously agitating for their own election next time, seeking already a share of the SSM vote – and so are forgetting the many who voted for their party precisely because of its platform.

Here we note that an ethic of parliamentary accountability has been lost. It needs to be re-discovered. These parliamentarians and those who voted for them – like the rest of their parliamentary colleagues on all sides – need to understand that politics involves waiting, waiting until next election before one gets elected on a new platform. Just because Julia Gillard as PM received approval from the Federal Labor Conference to change her party’s uranium export policy, so that she then could come  back to the parliament with enabling legislation to send the stuff to India (was Mr Tony Abbott MP in his role of Leader of the Opposition leading criticism of that decision – ha!) is no constitutional basis for Labor’s opponents to jump on the populist bandwagon. And just because it was mineral exports doesn’t mean it wasn’t a populist sidestep of due process. And, by the way, it is the Liberal Party agitators and not just their opponents who need to remind themselves that the Constitution does not recognise the Federal Labor Conference as a part of our system of public governance.

I’m not – as I have said previously – indulging in cynicism but it is very difficult to avoid that accusation when you point to the embedded cynicism that is confirmed by our “news media’s” failure to reckon with the departure from what is presupposed in our Constitution by parliamentary democracy. If it weren’t enough to have the imposition upon the nation of ongoing political traditions by which the two major “sides” continue to dominate, cramp and misconstrue in their own interest our system of public governance. Our citizenship responsibility which, we thought, was about the accountability of those making the laws to those who have elected them (ha!), is simply being nulled by these careering careerists. Our system of public governance is a train wreck that hasn’t understood that it is already running off the rails.

But what is indicative of the depth of our political crisis is the persistent lack of normative judgement by the “reliable media” when it comes to instances of agitprop like this recent one. The inner tensions between party unity on the basis of a party platform and efforts to maintain party unity by changing the grounds of a party’s parliamentary representation in order to win the next election are presumed to be the normal and normative way of politics.

Donald Trump, as David Brooks of the NYT has opined, has seemingly been good for NYT’s subscriptions. But to travel down this path by silence and failure to comment openly about naked populism, eschewing judgment because it is merely a “fact” means “news” which avoids editorial censure, an attempt to dodge ongoing responsibility. And  in fact such a view is destructive of our system of parliamentary representation, and continues to deepen the crisis in its own journalistic way. It simply dispenses with all ordinances of self-denial in order to report upon the dispensing of political self-denial as if the latter is simply to be expected. And hence we see a further wedge driven into our failing system of parliamentary democracy, and parliamentarian’s accountability to the electorate is dissolved in public opinion surveys by vested interests.

We are in deep trouble.

The non-fake news is that the failure of the ABC and other allegedly “reputable” news sources and media is fully part of our political crisis.

The emergent political strategy in this agitprop is obviously aimed to get the matter off the political agenda. It will no longer be an issue such advocates assume because if the law says so therefore it must be right and true, therefore it must be “normal” therefore it will no longer be an issue. Presumably we will then “get on with the rest of our lives”. This means little more than concentrating on making sure our materialist and individualist (if not narcissistic) success ideology gets front and centre attention by our parliaments so that the people of this country can get on with their lives in terms of their goals for success.

Given the combination of a lack of respect for electors with a lack of coherence in platform policies concerning marriage, family and household (the full bio-politics kaboodle), it will probably be not too far off before legislation for “marriage equality” is passed. But will such legislation be mainly a symbolic parliamentary endorsement, a point in our nation’s legislative history that can be pointed to in order to advocate further “progressive” measures?

A Christian political option needs to avoid getting caught up in flag-waving exercises, and those wanting to see public justice will need to engage in a truly root and branch rethink of Government’s relation to marriage, family, household and friendship. The task of forming public policy takes decades and to now promote genuine public respect from the perspective of a Christian political option will not be easy. It will have to be long-term.

But the way will not be found by accommodation to the populist inner tension now so evident in the mass media’s reports of “both sides” of politics. The maintenance of a political party’s unity is assumed to be the same as gaining electoral success. Such a dialectic needs to be scrupulously avoided; it is merely an endorsement of the crisis we are now going through.

BCW 1.8.17

Confronting Unanticipated Consequences – Overcoming Political Superficiality.

In our most recent post we observed how the Liberal Party’s latest “rising star”, the member for Dickson (Qld.), has confirmed the Liberal Party’s well-established tactic of “getting legislation through” – by whatever means – in order to close ranks and thereby close down public debate that is an ongoing threat to party unity.

Mr Dutton seems oblivious of the fact that he, and the rest of his party, is in ongoing historical retreat from framing a comprehensive policy platform concerned with the most important economic nexus in the Australian polity. I am referring to the most productive institution in the Australian economy – the family household. Presumably he and a good number of his parliamentary fellows on “both sides” assume that offering a clear and unequivocal policy framework to ensure justice for marriage, family and household is simply too contentious to be discussed and debated openly. The Liberal Party in recent times has floated the idea of keeping such discussion behind closed party-room doors. And there is an another instance in which they are oblivious of what they are actually doing to starve electors from active participation in what is in fact debate that is vitally concerned with our own lives. He and his colleagues, and his opponents, regularly confirm the fact that their way of “doing politics” is now all washed up.

And this may be one symptom of our “crisis” in the West, but their failure to openly address it is a cause and consequence of our ongoing national political instability. And this too is why his party is suffering ongoing disunity. Disunity is to be expected when a political party strives to stay in power by transforming itself into a public relations firm.

Mr Dutton says that he believes that legislation for “same-sex marriage”/ “marriage equality” is inevitable. he thinks his side should get amongst the action to ensure that they stay in control of the consequential policy debate. In other words his entire approach is not about justice for “marriage, family and household” but primarily about defeating Labor at the next election. It is superficial nonsense. It deserves repudiation.

What we do have, it seems, is bi-partisan political cowardice. In all the parliamentary efforts to wave rainbow flags, we do not hear of the full gamut of consequential legislative initiatives that will follow the proposed change to the definition of lawful marriage. We are left without any idea of how SSM advocates anticipate dealing with the wide-ranging public and legal consequences of such a change; there is no clear explanation of how “marriage equality” will contribute to the overall policy direction embarked upon by the Australian Federal Parliament.

When critics of “marriage equality” ask about these consequences, the ritual answer is made in terms of an appeal to the children’s story “Chicken Licken”,

… in other jurisdictions where same-sex marriage has been legislated, the sky hasn’t fallen to earth!

Such a response amounts to a lamentable suggestion that opponents ought to allow the experiment to proceed, just as it has been engineered in other polities. IOW: let’s see where it goes? (Should I refer to Foxy Loxy in the Chicken Licken story perhaps?)

Yet for many of this generation’s citizens and politicians the idea that Australia might now be out of step with the rest of the “progressive” West on “marriage equality” is cause for deep embarrassment. Maybe this is what Peter Dutton is referring to when he says that, despite being opposed, he expects “same sex marriage is inevitable”. But the question is: what does he propose politically to do in response to this anticipated state of affairs? That question he needs to answer in conversation with his electors. But his party simply ducks for cover on this matter at every opportunity.

But then our concern here is this: what does Nurturing Justice propose politically to be done about this state of affairs? It’s a good question. Given the state of our political system, and the studied isolation by Christian citizens, I’m not sure there is anything specific that NJ can do apart from encouraging opened up discussion about a Biblically faithful understanding of “marriage, family and household” issues. But to do so will also mean that the full gamut of “body politics” issues (abortion, IVF, euthanasia, medical science and much more) have to be dealt with. But the focus upon “marriage, family and household” has everything to do developing a comprehensive political understanding of human birth, growth, maturation and decline. It  involves a full and elaborated view of how new human life is given to be nurtured by parents, how social life should aid and contribute to genuine maturation. And much more.

It is within that Biblical view of marriage, and all our other responsibilities, that Christians will have to develop a “way of life” that decisively side-steps the snares of mythic sexual self-liberation. And it will be from such a “way of life” that honours and respects the way God has made us that a Christian political option will arise. It will come in time. But when it does, it will also have to rely upon a sound and emancipatory Christian educational option.

In the meantime we remain at work in public policy and ethical research concerned with forming a comprehensive sociological understanding of marriage, family and household – not forgetting friendship in its authentic rainbow-rich variety.

What NJ should be trying to do, I guess, is to give wise advice to Christian parents and school teachers concerning their nurturing of a new generation. But to do so effectively we will also need a coherent and cogent historical account of what has transpired in the last 50 years.

In his response to the recent capitulation of the Church of England synod in England to a neopagan view of sexuality Revd. Gavin Ashenden discusses the malformation of pastoral care that arose from the psycho-therapy of Carl Rogers and C G Jung. See here.

BCW 25.7.17




The Rearrangement of Parliamentary Deckchairs and the Crisis of the West.

In trying to commend a Christian political option one will often meet accusations like the following:

Why are you so cynical? Why do you have to be so negative?

Over the years, my attempt to respond to such views with civic respect has led me to reply:

Well actually, I am opposed to political cynicism. But we need to discuss the cynicism we can all taste; it is a bitter part of our public life and it seems to be imbedded in all our political debates.

Neither am I wanting to be negative. I am trying to point in an alternative direction, to suggest how a greater measure of public justice might be achieved.

Of course, entering the political fray is not about “winning arguments” and I concede that often my views leave the “other guy” confused. On many occasions greater insight comes from turning my “hard hitting” rhetoric back upon my own views (Luke 6:42). And the literary effort to write Nurturing Justice blogs since 2005 has confirmed me in the view that “politics” is not a career but a dimension of all of our lives  as adult citizens. Those who claim to be seeking a career in “politics” get it wrong. “Politics” is not to be defined by what “politicians” do and achieve. “Politics” is an opportunity to respond to the God-given reality of the call to love one’s neighbour with public justice. That misunderstanding – i.e. that politics is what “they” do – may be at the root of our widespread and embedded political cynicism.

The newly installed super-minister of the newly super-merged Department of Immigration and Border Protection (embracing home affairs) is obviously revelling in his recent elevation. This weekend he has put himself forward as the promoter of bright ideas.  He claims that a postal plebiscite will get the issue of same-sex marriage resolved before the next election. But in our view his approach is evidence of deep cynicism, and a misunderstanding of Parliamentary responsibility.

What does “before the next election” tell us? Is it significant that he doesn’t say “once and for all”? Obviously, conservative defections in Liberal and National ranks are on his mind. Is not this his attempt, as a rising star through the ranks, of keeping the show on the road, the fragmenting party united. The Liberal Party’s electoral problem is that the promised “marriage equality/same-sex marriage” plebiscite hasn’t happened. He has let it be known that he believes same-sex marriage is inevitable. But he stands astride the barbed-wire fence on both sides because he is opposed to same-sex marriage. So then Peter what do you propose to do about electors, across the Commonwealth, who do not believe that a same-sex friendship can be marriage, who believe that such “inevitability” is flying in the face of reality?

Obviously Mr Dutton is not addressing that issue, and he should be. Instead he’s putting himself forward on both sides at the same time. He has been in parliament for how many years? How many times have we heard that simply getting the legislation through will solve the problem? But then what is the problem? Is there no problem with marriage, qua institution, in this polity? Or are we being presented with a fudge, a fudge that resolves the Liberal Party’s ongoing existence, or more precisely of Liberal-National “unity” on the Treasury Benches. For all intents and purposes their major political purpose is no longer what they stand for but rather safeguarding themselves and ensuring that their “side” stays in power as government?

No, this will not get the Liberal Party off the barbed-wire fence. The Liberal Party is already committed to fudging any residual political commitment it may have to marriage, family and household and has been so committed since the fudging was set in concrete, pardon the metaphor, when it gave full rein to the former PM, John Howard, to reneg on his electoral promise to his electors 16 years ago of “no legislation to enable embryonic stem cell research”. Then of course such a fudging was dismissed because it was only a “non-core promise.”

It is not only Peter Dutton MP but also that other former PM on the back-bench, as well as the current PM, who are forgetting that that fudged viewpoint is now set in concrete as an implicit part of the Liberal Party’s evolution, it is basic to its electoral modus operandi.

Mr Dutton’s attempt to show “leadership”  has an echo – “So that we can get this matter off the parliamentary agenda and get on with the rest of our parliamentary responsibilities.” What Mr Dutton and his party colleagues are ignoring is the political character of parliamentary representation itself. What about the parliamentary representation of electors who may reject this “inevitability”? Do they count? They certainly cannot rely upon Mr Dutton to represent them, not least because they do not live in his electorate. But his solution is highly questionable anyway – he wants to get the issue “out of the way”. It is an historical reprise of what the former PM said in his public resistance to the legislative opportunities of the 1992 Mabo judgement that arisen in the 1997 Wik case:

If [those opposing the “10 point plan” in the Senate] want this thing off the agenda of Australian politics, pass it before Christmas and then we can all get on with the future” (The Age 22/11/1997).

This is the Liberal Party’s view. Resolve the uncertainty and then we can all get on with the future.

This is nothing else than maintenance of political nonsense, put forward as sagacious political wisdom. When did, for instance, the needs of Australia’s indigenous population ever “go off the agenda” of public justice? Has not the needs intensified since 1998 after have of the 10-Point plan was legislated? Or, in this case, when will the Liberal and National Coalition, (not forgetting the Labor Party), face up to the fact that it is their respective failures as political parties that has contributed to the crisis in marriage, family (think of the rise in family violence), household. These are supposedly associations that have their standing in our political community because they have the public resources granted them to develop comprehensive and coherent (?) political ideology about the political future of the Commonwealth. These issues of public justice are systematically avoided by the political machines, the public relations firms of “both sides” and they are not going to go away. The way in which we already converse, as a polity, about marriage, about procreation, about sexual relations, will simply be further confused by any legislated mis-representation of marriage based upon an empirical error that says that a same-sex relationship is a marriage – this confusion will continue anyway in this polity whatever our Parliament decides and whatever some or all other “Western polities” may decide. Ironically, we are now back to the issue of our former posts on the “crisis” in the West. (Moreover, this week, will not Twitter accounts be chatting like never before as the Vatican No.3 takes his stand in the dock?)

“So we can all get on with the future” – this is nothing but a mantra of the parliamentary self-interested who no longer know how to formulate a coherent and comprehensive policy for marriage, family and household justice for its “side” of politics. Instead the aim of politics is to stay in power. The problems will be still around and exacerbated because, as the insightful juristic analysis shows, any legislated “marriage equality” is not going to remove the deep legislative and public policy confusion and ambiguity that pertains to marriage and family and household life across our Commonwealth.

If we were to have a plebiscite because the “two sides” are simply incapable of developing coherent policy on marriage – however the votes were cast – might it not be better to ask the preceding question of the voters: Should Australian law henceforth consider marriage merely as a matter of civil rights? This is an issue NJ has raised previously.

As it stands, the efforts to make Parliament into the public advocate of same-sex marriage is already lost (here and elsewhere) by persistent libertarian attempts to redesign reality by the imposition of a “politically-correct” symbolism. Mr Dutton’s suggestion is more a case of a suggestion for yet another round of Liberal Party deck-chair rearrangement.

But as far as deck-chair rearrangement goes the Liberal-Coalition “side” does not have it on their own. Almost on cue, the Labor leader sends a signal that would seemingly remove some of the uncertainty and instability about our political system by suggesting four-year terms. Yes, this is a good idea. And the PM knows it. Good ideas are needed in this context of crisis and uncertainty. BUT will it make any difference to the declining public trust in our system of government? Are the major parties going to set out on a new course and become parties again, and even willing to lose elections out of political conviction? Or will the proposal for 4-year parliamentary terms become yet another “public relations” stunt? Could this good idea dissolve into yet another example of corporate narcissism, as the major parties equate the national interest with their dominance over parliament?

BCW 24/7/17

Christianity’s Decline Amid the Crisis of the West

Eureka Street’s editor Andrew Hamilton, asks: What fuelled the crisis in the West? This is his considered contribution to the significant debate generated by Paul Kelly’s article a fortnight ago in The Australian, “Blessed be the egoistic individuals”. A post from Nurturing Justice also commented on this article. We continue our contribution here to give further elaboration to what Nurturing Justice understands concerning a Christian political option.

Hamilton’s editorial, like the articles of Sheridan and Kelly, is worth reading, as are the comments of readers  immediately after it. But I would suggest that the line of argument ignores the same issues that Kelly’s critique sidestepped although Hamilton does point out, rightfully, that Kelly has not identified the noxious root of neo-liberalism, the ideology of a system of political economy that is bowed in its piety to the sacred fiction of an “unencumbered self”. This is basic to the now ubiquitous distrust of government in the West. Here and now, representative government in parliament is undermined by behind-the-scenes capitulation to the lobbying of interest-groups and political party machinations that imply that political belief is meaningless unless elections are won. Where is the political willingness to lose elections because of political beliefs about what is good in the long-run for the public interest, for the common good? NJ continues to draw attention to how all major political parties have loosened their concern for the authentic representation of voters – party cadres form parties as public relations firms which have to win and be seen to be winning if they are to retain their jobs marketing the “party line”. Now the locus of Government power is the “party room”, the place for secret Liberal (or Labor) business.

All of this determinative political context remains outside the limits of Kelly’s and Hamilton’s analysis. Both articles, along with that of Greg Sheridan, seem to want to hold onto conventional Christian (i.e. Roman Catholic) teaching as they set forth their viewpoints. Here then is my reply to Hamilton:

Thankyou Andrew. Quite apart from Paul Kelly’s Christian-pagan longing to re-establish Aristotle as the Christian philosopher”, he has sidestepped the need for a critical exposé of how the noxious roots of economic liberalism feed the pervasive global distrust of political authority, and this you rightly point out. But Kelly’s”culture of narcissism” argument blatantly sidesteps the “corporate narcissism” generated on two prominent fronts: 1. the mass media and his own newspaper and his newspaper’s owner involvement in feeding rampant individualised celebrity as if Australians should be proud of one who renounced his citizenship in order to extend his American holdings. And 2. The disgraceful “corporate narcissism” among senior office bearers of Christian churches, exposed world-wide in recent times. Your suggestion that the resultant culture of greed “has little to do with religious belief” cannot be sustained since it is all about an idolatry, a mis-directed religious belief, that gives decisive signals of an apostasy, root and branch, of Christian churches. This should in no way be excluded from any authentic Christian political analysis of our current political co-responsibilities within the unfolding crisis of the West. Did not Rerum Novarum intimate a similar critique and Christian democratic challenge?

I suspect that my own rhetorical question: “What has Aristotle got to do with reviving Christian discipleship in the political domain?” as it appeared in the former post will cause some Christians reading this to suspect that Nurturing Justice is taking an irrational stand. Indeed such views are to be expected and here I take the liberty of paraphrasing the scholarly perspective of such an anticipated critic who will allege that Nurturing Justice has signalled support for a narrow-minded irrational dogmatism.

I was somewhat flummoxed to read: ‘What has Aristotle got to do with Christian discipleship and the task of forming a Christian public discussion?’ That sounds as if a Christian political option is not only close-minded but irrational. Can we not learn from Aristotle as to how a reasoned philosophy should be developed? Indeed hasn’t such reasoned philosophy been basic to Christian theology and for this we need to point to no other eminent scholar than Thomas Aquinas as well as 19th century Catholic Social Teaching. And after all, hasn’t Biblical studies confirmed that Platonic and Aristotelian ideas are implicit in the New Testament? Consider how the Stoic “logos” appears in John’s Gospel. So its self-evident that we need a return to Aristotle if there is ever to be a genuine and authentic return to Christian political responsibility.

Nurturing Justice is unabashed in affirming its view that the task of forming a Christian contribution to public discussion should come from Christian citizens who reckon with the inner connection between their citizenship and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament. That being said, there are philosophical and historical issues of profound weight that have to be addressed in any Christian scholarship even if they cannot be resolved here in this blog. Nevertheless, Nurturing Justice is not running away from the need for a comprehensive Christian political science in which such issues are addressed and answered. Here is my brief answer to the above concern.

Paul Kelly makes the connection to Aristotle as if every educated and intelligent reader will already know that Aristotle is the benchmark not only for rational thinking but also for thinking about the virtues of political practice. That, in effect, announces the dogmatic closure of discussion at that point and in my view he is apparently unaware of that closure. Can there be a Biblically-directed justification for the view that Aristotle is the (Christian’s) philosopher? Can this view be anything other than an appeal to a persistent tradition of Christian accommodation with Aristotle, as if that accommodation now should have binding normative authority among Christians?
To follow this assertion an appeal is often made to (what some scholars say is nothing but) a scholarly myth that John in writing his Gospel was drawing on the Stoic logos concept. And hence this reaffirmation of the vital necessity of Hellenic thinking (whether Platonist or Aristotelian) because from there the West has inherited the nostrum that human rationality is autonomous. “Reason” pertains to a self-sufficient reality and with such a scheme any proposed divine creator will have to share any status of non-dependency as a co-creator since it is the self-subsisting faculty of reason, manifest throughout reality, that has enabled the creator to create, giving form to matter. This is the basic dialectical “stuff” of the Greek philosophical tradition and hence antithetical to Biblical teaching.
Kelly and Sheridan in their views of the “crisis” mask a pre-theoretical disposition that seeks such Hellenic accommodation with the Biblical teaching of the imageo Dei. I am not wanting to imply that they be prevented from arguing in this way. I can hardly stop them. No “policeman’s hand” (fundamentalist appeal to a Bible verse) will enhance discussion by making an alternative dogma absolute.
Of course, the philosophy of Aristotle has been formative in the decisive shaping of Christian lives through traditions of such accommodative scholarship – the variations of that accommodation raise ongoing scholarly issues for investigation that philosophers, scientists, historians and sociologists should not avoid. But so has Plato, so has Descartes, Kant, and Husserl. So has Marx. So has Foucault, Rawls and Rorty. But to affirm that any one of these prominent thinkers has pointed the way to fulfilling the first and great commandment (“loving God with your whole heart, soul, MIND and strength”) is not only to suggest an accommodation of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles to Aristotle (or Plato et. al). It means that there is an active assumption that the writings of such non-Christian thinkers should be part of Christian scholarship for the purpose of giving emphasis to how their theories comply with Christian teaching. Biblical teaching therefore is equated with theology, and so theology is proclaimed as the Queen of the Sciences. This notion finds its origin in Aristotle and it has also made its impact upon Protestant thinking and theology (consider Beza and Voetius, let alone more latter-day luminaries). And it doesn’t take long in one’s discussion with Muslims to realise that The Philosopher’s conception of an Unmoved Mover continues to make an impact upon Islamic thought as well.

This discussion cannot stop here. It must be continued.

BCW 20.7.17



Henrietta Dubb’s Diary began with a quote from a review of R H Tawney, a collection of essays entitled, Christianity and the Social Revolution (London. Victor Gollancz & Co 1935). It can be found in The Attack and Other Essays, Spokesman, Nottingham 1981 (Original edition, 1953 George Allen and Unwin Ltd).

“I have excerpted quotes from pages 163-166:

The watershed between creeds which this striking book suggests is not the conventional one. Whatever Christians and Communists may say and do, Christianity and popular communism – though not its official variety – are alike in holding the now unfashionable view that principles really matter. Both have their absolutes. As far as principles are concerned, the division of the future will lie, perhaps, less between different forms of political and economic organisation than between different estimates of the value to be put on the muddled soul of Henry Dubb.

“There follows a footnote to my grandfather:

H.D.: the civilian equivalent of the P.B.I, or poor bloody infantry, ie the common, courageous, good-hearted, patient, proletarian fool, whose epic is contained in the well known lines, “We go to work to earn the cash to buy the bread to get the strength to go to work to earn the cash,” etc, and who is worth, except to his modest self, nine-tenths of the gentilities, notabilities, intellectual, cultural and ethical eminences put together. I seem to remember an occasion on which a telegram addressed to Henry Dubb, Labor Party Conference, was duly delivered at the correct sea-side resort. The statement that, on the chairman inviting the addressee to claim it, four-fifths of the comrades sprang to their feet, is, however an exaggeration.

“Tawney continues:

What the rules of Germany and Italy think of him we know; and I suspect that those of Japan think much the same. The Christian Church professes to regard him as a little lower than the angels, a child of God, and the heir of eternal life. But it has shown hitherto no unquenchable zeal to ensure that, in this vale of tears, he shall be treated as what, on its own doctrine, he is. … In the interminable case of Dubb v Superior Persons and Co whether Christians, Capitalists or Communists, I am an unrepentant Dubbite. So I am in the unfortunate position of being unable to applaud my friends for their vices, which – since their shining virtues will look after themselves – is what friends usually declare. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek. Pondering that and other indiscretions of a neglected classic, I find it impossible to believe, with some Christians, that the love of God, whom one has not seen, is compatible with advantages snatched from the brother one sees every day, or that what they describe as spiritual equality, a condition which they neither created nor – happily – can alter, has as its appropriate corollary economic, social and educational inequalities which, given the will, they can abolish out of hand … A Christianity which resigns the economic world to the devil appears to me, in short, not Christianity at all; Capitalism a juggernaut sacrificing human ends to the idolatry of material means; and a Socialism which puts Dubb on a chain and prevents him from teaching manners to his exalted governors, a Socialism – if such it can be called – which has more than half its battles still before it.

“I don’t pretend to understand all Tawney writes about my grand-father. In many ways Henry is still a mystery to me. I remember being told that just before he died – a matter of days after I was born – he said that he had always been in God’s care, and that as much as he longed for Heaven, he also wanted to see Our Heavenly Father’s new earth where righteousness and justice and truth and happiness flower in their fullest. Granpa, had a Christian funeral – his hopes have lain dormant in my consciousness all these years until I recently read Tawney’s comments noting the

… good sense, pertinacity, nerve and resolution of the loveable, pig-headed, exasperating Dubb.

“Tawney concluded his review in these terms. As I have said, I don’t follow all that Tawney writes about him. But I do warm to one thing he says. I put it here to complete the record:

Since I am not a fatalist, and regard confident predictions from past history as mostly sciolism, I have not yet despaired of Henry. I consider it not impossible that he may one day wake up; make an angry noise like a man, instead of bleating like a sheep; and in England, at any rate, in spite of scales weighted against him, use such rights as he possesses, which he is more sensible than some of his intellectual pastors in thinking worth having, to win economic freedom.

“Can I contribute to the economic freedom which Tawney said was within the grasp of Henry, if only he would wake up? I don’t know. Inspired by Henry Dubb’s example, I, his Australian grand-daughter, am going to try. That means accepting my vocation as a Christian citizen of this place. How else? I’m writing this diary to wake myself up and anyone else who is interested enough to read my scribbling may be encouraged to wonder why things have gone wrong and how we can begin to find a new way to exercise the stewardship God entrusts to all who live in this place.”

HD March 2003

Here is the link to Henrietta’s Post, “The frisbee, the sausage and the barbecue” her initial Nurturing Justice contribution to the NDIS rollout.