Citizenship Reformed

Everyday seems to bring a new revelation of just how compromised our political system has become. It is not just the electors who are confused. Those elected, who should know better, are also found to have been skating on thin ice and in some cases have crashed.

We have mentioned the ongoing demise of the political party in this polity. Liberal, National and Labor parties continue to form political life as if these vital associations are but public relations firms for entrenching the political privilege of this “movers and shakers” of public governance. They have traded political education for a mess of propagandistic pottage.

We have revealed corruption at Local Government Authority level.

We have discussed the attack of three Government ministers on the judgement of the Victorian courts … which only showed they needed to resign forthwith for bringing the parliament and the legislation it enacts into disrepute.

We have, of late, analysed the antics of Government members over same-sex marriage and note how they are simply avoiding the difficult task of constructively forming national political debate.

And now, following the resignation of two Greens senators because of dual citizenship which our constitution forbids. we hear of more cases – at least two – of such violations which should require resignations from our country’s parliaments. Subsequent by-elections for House of Representatives seats may well tip the balance and we could find the Turnbull Liberal-National Coalition lose its parliamentary majority.

No doubt the newspapers and mass media will embark upon the discussion about the qualifications that a Parliamentarian has to fulfil – but in that sense the discussion of citizenship will too easily be narrowed down to whether a person qualifies to stand for Parliament. Of course, this issue of eligibility has to be discussed and justly coded but the political discussion should be a broad one about citizenship and what citizenship should entail for all of us in our system of public governance and not just for our elected representatives. That broader discussion is what this country needs because we have a constitution which pays lip service to a Parliamentary system of law-making in which those taking their seats are supposed to be the representatives of electors, namely the citizens. But we know that far too many citizens in this polity are left unrepresented in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth. And we suspect that the kind of discussion herein proposed is somewhat out-of-synch with political parties jockeying with the mass media in order to win the election next time round.

But it is most appropriate to relativize that political game to focus upon how, in this political environment, to renew genuine political discussion among citizens concerning the manner in which Parliament is and should be answerable to the citizenry. How should Parliamentary seats be filled? How can Parliamentary representation be reformed to ensure that a greater percentage of the electors are truly represented in its deliberations and the subsequent legislation? How can the political parties themselves retain their identity as genuine associations of a well-elaborated political vision of the future governance of this country? How can voters be more equitably represented in Parliament by applying an appropriate “Australian” embodiment of the principles of proportional representation?

There are many questions like this. Australia will needs new and genuine political parties – fired by genuine political conviction – so long as these parties can convince their own members, let alone those who might vote for their candidates, that their political vision and their legislative programme is worth losing elections for because they have it in view ti support the long-term reformation of public governance and political life in view.

Yes the discussions among indigenous Australians in response to the call of leaders from the Uluru convention – i.e. to have a representative body enshrined in the Commonwealth’s constitution -pushes us and challenges us in this same reforming direction – reforms to our citizenship cannot afford to ignore the ongoing political contributions of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Pacific Island citizens of this Commonwealth.

And so, as we as a polity think through the demands and responsibilities of active citizenship, of political engagement in public governance and giving due respect to various political movements we find ourselves discussing Australia’s future in the South West Pacific.

And here, another dimension of the political vision of Nurturing Justice comes into view. It is implicit in the various posts made over the last decade. A Christian political option cannot really be disclosed in Australia, as it needs to be unfolded as a positive contribution to public governance at all levels, without Christian citizens across the region of the South West Pacific coming to identify themselves as regional members one of another, and thus learning to support and be supported by each other. That means that Australian Christian political efforts need to be in an ongoing mutually supportive relationship across Polynesia and Melanesia, getting to appreciate ourselves as neighbours within this massive region of the globe (From Easter Island in the South Pacific to Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean we are a 17% part of the globe’s surface. With about 40 million (including the Papua New Guinea and certainly not forgetting justice for West Papua) we are tiny (half of 1% of the world’s population). But this is where we live. This is still our front and backyard and as citizens of this region we remain responsible for it. This is where our responsibility to love our neighbour politically with public justice is by God’s design to be lived out

And so the raising of the question of citizenship to prominence in public debate should, for Christian citizens, raise afresh the question of how we form our way of life politically to promote public justice as those who follow Jesus Christ:

For that person who would follow me it comes down to that person denying self and taking up his/her cross and following me. For whoever wants to save his/her life will lose it, but whoever loses his/her life for my sake will save it.…  (Luke 9:23).

BCW 28.7.17

Matthew’s Gospel for Quisling Tax Collectors and Other Deviants

There will probably be those who instinctively interpret Nurturing Justice as an attempt read the Bible in political terms. What follows is a “reading” of a seemingly innocent passage from Matthew’s gospel (“politically innocent” that is) that not only tells us that what is “on the page” is filled with political implications, but more importantly it indicates something about a Gospel-directed political involvement for us in this time. Matthew’s Gospel is characterised in toto by this leit-motif:

It is mercy I delight in, not sacrifice. (Hosea 6:6 see Matthew 9:13).

It is the Gospel account of a tax-collector and I wonder whether it is actually written with fellow tax collectors, as well as other outsiders, in mind. The opening song of the Sermon on the Mount reminds us:

A blessing rests on those who are merciful; mercy will be shown to them (Matthew 5:7).

The Lord’s Prayer reiterates this:

Remit us the debts we have incurred against you as we remit the debts incurred against us. (Matthew 6:12)

Yes reading the Sermon on the Mount from a Tax Collector’s perspective might indeed deepen our understanding not just of Matthew’s response, but of Jesus’ teaching! A Biblically-directed Christian political option will need to avoid self-justification by conveniently dogmatised Bible teaching, and find ways to support merciful compassion in political conduct. And in this context I propose to consider

Matthew 4:23-25.And as he went around from place to place around the Galileean region, Jesus was teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. Because he was healing every disease and all kinds of afflictions among the people, his fame spread across all of Syria too, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

We have to wait until we are right into this story, known as Matthew’s Gospel, before we learn about the call of Jesus to Matthew the tax-collector (9:9; 10:3). And when we, 21st century readers, come to that – not being in a position to ask Peter or John or those who were in touch with the apostles – we are prodded to go back and re-read the earlier parts of this extensive chronology and carefully note its nuances. We might even do a bit of cross-referencing with other Gospels to get a sense of what was going on and how it was that Matthew framed his account in the precisely the way it has come to us.

We note Matthew’s focus. Was he reliant upon the story of Joseph concerning the early life of Jesus? (see Chapters 1&2) And we then jump with him perhaps 25 years, plus or minus, to hear of the arrival of John in (3:1) to begin his work. And as if John is the MC of some still-to-be-disclosed event, we then learn of the arrival of Jesus coming from Galilee to be baptised. Matthew does not tell us what John is reported by Luke to have said to tax-collectors –

Quit this workplace habit of taking a bit on the side habit which has become a feature of your tax-collecting work – you are answerable in your employment to the Anointed of the God of Israel who is on his way! (see Luke 3:14-15).

Was the person Luke identifies as Levi (Luke 5:27-32) Matthew? Well we do not know for sure. But Matthew’s list of the specially selected twelve (10:2-4) certainly lists Matthew the tax collector, who Jesus had called to follow him (9:9-14). And by working our way through this we can suggest that this Gospel is intent upon majoring upon the message of Hosea:

It is mercy I delight in, not sacrifice. (Hosea 6:6 see Matthew 9:13)

So what was Jesus to teach to the crowds coming to him, once he realised that Isaiah 61 and all the other prophets applied to himself? He had been prepared, Matthew tells us, (4:1-11) by the most agonising of privations and cruel suggestions – these started then before his ministry gathered any momentum in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and was continued right up until his dying breath (see 4:3,6,9 and compare with Matthew 27:40-44). Clearly, he had become aware of a temptation to use the mass appeal of his teaching to meet his own needs, to embellish his own grandeur. And so, he is depicted in all Gospels as one who is deeply aware of the possibility that his teaching, if deconstructed to function within the Tempter’s deceitful strategy, would wreck immeasurable havoc by capturing God’s elect in a net of slavery once more.

“Why not, it will only be for a time after all, but then by allowing yourself to inherit all the kingdoms of the earth my way you can take the next step and offer it all up to God, your Heavenly Father … “

And Jesus’ reply:

“You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve!”

sent Satan away.

There are other features of Matthew’s discussion here of the move of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum and the calling of the young men in the Galilee fishing co-operative that are worthy of our continued reflection. Peter and Andrew, James and John – who were also disciples of John the Baptist – were called to travel with Jesus in an enterprise designed “to trawl for people”.

In the desert by prayer and fasting, Jesus had undergone a 40 day preparation. And when all the temptations had been resisted and the Tempter sent on his way “for a time”, Jesus had confirmation of his Father’s blessing by his own specially sent visitation of angel-messengers.

But in 4:23-25, Matthew is almost taking on the archetypal characteristics of what we might expect from a Jewish tax-collector who joined in the joyful task of proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom:

Have I got a good news story for you!

He is saying something like:

This was big, truly big. After John’s call for repentance there was a very wide expectation of something big and important unfolding … before their own eyes.

And Matthew then, by indicating just how widespread this movement had become, tells us what he is going to try to convey in what follows. So from Chapters 5-9 we seem to have a “Chapter”, a focus upon a peculiar and identifiable stage in Jesus’ ministry. From 10:1 we read of a further intensification of what is to be the future ministry of the apostles, the twelve disciples he especially called to be by his side.

We might say that Chapters 5-7 is the record of Jesus’ teaching, the basic outlook on life that Jesus expects of his disciples. It is also very clearly the proclamation of the Kingdom of God (the “good news of the kingdom”), which then suggests that Chapters 8 and 9 is a selective record of these healings, how diverse diseases and ailments were met by his competent and authoritative health-care ministry, confronting those possessed of demonic powers, those crazy and paralysed. Matthew is also suggesting that the people “came out” to him and that in response Jesus was pleased to convene a plein air synagogue.

Is Matthew suggesting that we will want to know what Jesus planned to do with all the crowds that came out to him? Matthew indicates Jesus made careful and well-planned choices of those who would travel closest to himself.

But he is also suggesting that Jesus was going out to a desperate, hurting, confused and angry people. Here they were: they had gone out en masse to John and confessed their sins, being baptized in the Jordan by him. And then John was arrested – his days evidently numbered. It is in this context – we will be told – although it is not said so explicitly by Matthew – that some of the most desperate, and abused, were also numbered among the crowds that then went out to hear Jesus teach (9:10). And the Pharisees, ever vigilant in their role of spiritual overseers, saw this and complained. Jesus confirmed that his ministry was precisely to such people. These were they who fulfilled the prophet’s criteria at the time Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum. Matthew was alert to how Jesus’ ministry fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies:

Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, the sea road beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who spent their days shrouded in darkness have seen a great light; and on those that dwelt in a land overshadowed by death has a light dawned (4:15-16).

This is an inauguration of an ongoing mission of mercy (9:10), a root and branch restoration of God’s rule amongst his people, and not just from the “grass roots” or the massed convening of “popular sentiment” but of the endowment of a “new heart”. And when the Pharisees make their complaint – this is a movement that is attracting tax-collectors and sinners! – Matthew is in the thick of this contention because Jesus has personally called him to his side.

And the disciples of the imprisoned John the Baptist, still smarting from the injustice of his imprisonment – we don’t hear that his murder had made an impact until Chapter 14 – are also somewhat uncertain with Jesus’ apparent lack of concern for ritual purity. In 11:2 we read of Jesus’ answer to John’s question as to whether he is truly the one who fulfils John’s preparatory work. The answer Jesus gives is to reiterate the Messianic promise that Jesus had confirmed in his own person from Isaiah.

On your way and report to John the things which you are seeing and hearing, how the blind receive their sight, the lame can walk, the leprous are cleansed, the deaf can hear, the dead are raised to and the poor are having good new proclaimed to them. And one more thing: a blessing rests on all those who take no offence at me (Matthew 11:4-6. See also Isaiah 29:18, 35:5ff, 61:1).

John’s disciples had earlier complained about Jesus’ apparent neglect of fasting. But then (9:14-17), and in this passage to his imprisoned cousin, Jesus confirms that his work is nothing less than a living celebration of the breaking out of God’s ministry of mercy.

It is mercy I delight in, not sacrifice. (Hosea 6:6 see Matthew 9:13).

Jesus’ disciples are participants in an ongoing, joyful and richly satisfying “engagement party” – and so we confront something that will call forth the imagery of the apocalyptic Marriage Sup of the living and resurrected Lamb of God bearing the wounds of his trial as the betrothed of his bride – and in the meantime there is a harvest of grapes to begin the brewing of a new wine, a time to design new wedding garments. This is good reason why John, even under such privation and potential agony should take heart. His work will have enduring significance.

So, do we have one teaching in the open air and synagogue and another teaching altogether in private when his disciples confront Jesus face-to-face with their questions? Is that what this is to be? Is this how the Kingdom comes? Well, it is quite conceivable that those who experienced the crowds and thought that this was a movement that would throw the Romans out would have to be organised. But if they thought this was indeed Jesus’ plan – and the possibility that this is what God had intended seems to have still been on the strategic horizon of the closest of Jesus’ disciples right up until just before his parting words to them and his ascension. But they would also have great trouble lining it all up with what follows in Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount.

There is an “insider” view that Jesus explains to his disciples when he draws them in close. That is undeniable. But it is a cut of quite a different cloth from any reading of his teaching that would suggest it was in someway beholden to the expectations of popular sentiment. But any “inside” or “up close” view is not to be part of any deception against those “outside” or “far away”. It is rather a matter of having Jesus as our teacher of wisdom, helping us to understand the teaching he has given to us. (We might have to look more carefully at Mark 4:11 ad Luke 8:10 on another occasion with respect to what these tell us about what Jesus expected of his specially chosen twelve.) The purpose of being “up close” to the disciples is to give them his own teaching about how they are to teach and proclaim God’s Kingdom. They are drawn in close to learn of Jesus’ own explanation of his teaching, teaching he knew was going to be thought of as “common property”.

And Matthew tells us how, on the mount, Jesus sat down to teach in his open-air synagogue. And that teaching has everything to do with our life lived fully within the maintained and blessed creation order of the Lord. Creational living is not exhausted by our political  responsibilities but neither can these be excluded. And moreover, with the message of the Good News inspiring us, we will confess that Jesus Christ has restored political responsibility within God’s creation order. And that is why we seek a Christian political option.

Further thought (12.6.17):

How do you write a post-resurrection account of the Sermon on THAT mountain when you have met with the Resurrected One a year or so later at the same place?

How do we now read Matthew 5 to 7 after Jesus instructed his disciples to go back to Galilee to “the mountain” to meet with him (28:16)? And then, as Luke tells us, when he is about to leave he instructs them – (not here, don’t go making this into a shrine like Peter wanted to do on that other occasion, it’s back to Jerusalem and wait … and while you’re about it you’re going to have to appoint – your task now – another to fill the 12th spot).

I guess Jot and Tiddle tax-man Matthew knew all about keeping records and keeping track of important information from his professional involvement for the occupying powers, if not for the quislings running the temple tax department – you won’t be entering the Kingdom of heaven without your accounts books being more transparent and fully audited than those of the scribes and pharisees.

And at the time Matthew wrote this, he must have wondered if his quill was catching fire as he penned 5:43-48 and he remembered how Jesus was entrapped. But then there is that parable (13:24-30) that coincides with 5:45 (God from his creational faithfulness sends his sunshine to rise upon the just and unjust) – the parable that Muhammed has seemingly ignored in his rooting out the infidels or simply requiring the Dhimmis not to sprout – and Matthew is well and truly on the path of realising that that sermon was setting them on their way …

But I’m thinking about how you or I would go about writing the story of a Man’s teaching career after you’ve met him once more, large as life, when he was resurrected. I mean who could ever pay attention to what Jesus was saying when he appeared to them and he was right there? Then again who wouldn’t be all ears? Then again who wouldn’t be making sure that they had heard him right the first time before they had deserted him and gone back over the entire time they had been with him to make sure they would not blot their copybook a second time. It’s obviously an event that strains all our contradictory instincts competing with each other to find a “balance” to complete breaking point. I ask: so wouldn’t I have wanted to go fishing under such circumstances, as Peter evidently wanted to do?

Do I Have to Read This?

Elaine Storkey’s Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women SPCK London 2015.

This is a difficult book to review. I would immediately commend it to any reader of Nurturing Justice. However, I could well understand why any reader of this blog who, having linked to this page, and has got this far in reading, might then say to him or herself: “Do I really have to read this?”

Let me try to get at my problem in writing a review in another way. My best and most reliable critic has worked for decades in agencies supporting “at risk” families and in child protection. She reminded me that policy-researchers and workers in this field are inundated with reports and don’t need yet another book that tells them what they have had to deal with day by day, month after month, year by year and decade after decade. This book, to such faithful workers in a seemingly unrewarding field will, in all likelihood, not be needed. And having read Storkey’s masterly overview of the global situation, one cannot but wonder about the toll on those working to support such violated women in these extensive fields of human misery. I read her work and my respect is deepened for those who stave off what seems to me to be an  ever-threatening sense of futility ready to pounce on whatever support such agencies can bring. It seems that public policies are simply not having much impact; and the constant and sometimes upward trends showing the extent of such degrading and dehumanising conduct are evident at home and abroad, in the developed as well as  developing countries.

That perhaps is enough to indicate why, as I write this, I am sympathetic to any reader asking, “Is this a book I need to read?” If you are working in the midst of efforts to counter such human disaster then maybe this book is not for you. But if you are in training because of a professional ambition in health, welfare, law, education, to make a difference then this is probably a book that you should read.

But do so slowly and I am reminded of the words ascribed to William Wilberforce as he takes the opportunity to introduce the supporters of his fellow parliamentarian to the smell of the slave ships moored in the Humber estuary.

Ladies and Gentlemen. This is a slave ship, the Madagascar. It has just returned from the Indies where it delivered 200 men, women and children to Jamaica. When it left Africa, there were 600 on board. The rest died of disease or despair. That smell is the smell of death; slow painful death.  Breathe it in. Breathe it deeply. Take those handkerchiefs away from your noses … There now. Remember that smell … remember the Madagascar, ….

And there was that film Amazing Grace reminding us, through scenes like that, that God made men and women in his image, all men and women, equally in his image.

Well, if someone comes to you and asks whether you know a book that can help  them understand and begin to overcome the atrocities that are perpetrated around the world by violence meted out to women and girls, then this is that kind of book. But say to that person that they have to read the book slowly, even though this book has the smell of death and putrefaction. One cannot read this book and expect to put it down without being impacted by its dreadful message. Readers have to breathe it in, and breathe it deeply. They need to set aside an entire day to read it and to cry and to pray and to share their troubled thoughts about this human disaster with those they love … let me imagine a friend of yours, perhaps in your church, someone who has been required by the courts to only have visits to wife (or former wife) and children under strict supervision. Let’s go further and imagine that he has benefited from an “anger management” course and is “on the way”. If he would come to you and ask:

Do you know of any book that could tell me in some detail the extent of violence against women around the world …?

then, this may well be such a book that could help such a willing student appreciate how his own life has been part of the frightening and alarming picture that Elaine Storkey draws for us in this book of 220 pages in length. But also it is a book that might be just what a person needs to wake them up to an ongoing disaster – it may well be just a few doors up in your street.

And in that regard this is a book for any who would seek deepened appreciation for what is so destructively at work in this world of ours.

To put it another way: I would not suggest that this is a book to give to those who have already been immersed in the kinds of human degradation that this book documents. I’m thinking of those involved in, say, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It is not a book to give as a present to those who, in their work, are already preoccupied with the victims of violence. We might have further comment on the final four chapters (10. Why gender-based violence? It’s in our genes: exploring our evolutionary heritage; 11. Why gender-based violence? Power and patriarchy; 12. Religion and women; 13.  Christianity and gender: a fuller picture) in a later post.)

But Elaine Storkey’s description of what she calls a “global pandemic” and the careful identification of the various dimensions of such female focused violence is a shocking chronicle of human depravity.

Here is Elaine’s own introduction to her book from her web-site.

And here, in conclusion, is the table of contents.


That is sufficient for this post. As I say this is a book – as is Elaine’s web-site – that should be read slowly. “Breathe it in. Breathe it deeply.”

BCW 19.4.17


Easter, Beer, Chocolate and a Christian Political Option

I’ve been thinking. This Easter, at least in our neo-pagan West, our Christian call to worship for a reverent remembrance of the betrayal, suffering, trial, execution and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, should be nothing less than inspired by a reconsideration of the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-21). And yet, such a proposed bending of ourselves that brings on repentant remembrance, and then holy living, is what Jesus himself called from us as his disciples every time we partake of the meal he instituted, the “Lord’s Supper”. So what’s so special about Easter? Why is Nurturing Justice making such a strange call as “Holy Week” draws near? Here we continue reflection on our earlier post about secularisation and Sunday. And this time it also involves beer and chocolate.

We may no longer be surprised by the secularisation of the way of life presupposed by the political parties that dominate the horizons of our citizenship but neither should we be ignorant of the relentless upswing in neo-paganism which is alive and well in all manner of populist projects these days. Are the politicians who were so keen to have their Facebook “selfies” launched showing their pious attendance among the masses at the Mardi Gras going to give us a feast of images of them kneeling at communion rails at Easter? We’ll wait and see.

Over the past decade we have often enough drawn attention in these pages to the post-modern fertility cult to which one prominent Liberal PM accommodated when he reneged on his pious pre-election promise concerning embryonic stem-cell research. That got him “Christian votes” but those “Christian votes” were happily ignored once he started talking with the pharmaceutical companies and their bogus predictions. But that just led on to other “body politic” uncertainty in his own side of politics, now joined inseparably by the other mob’s obsequious compliance with the latest polls. And let’s keep in mind that with films like the Marigold Hotel we have been given a subtle introduction to an Indo-Hindu view, not simply of “spirituality”, but also, in truth, of human sexuality, an artistic deconstruction, if truth be known, of marriage itself. And “rights talk” politics these days very quickly lands advocates of “same-sex marriage”, let alone of “gender fluidity” into worldviews that have hitherto been unknown and which make their own elaborated contribution to public debate uncomfortable if not distorted and deceptive.

But back to our “Easter celebrations”. We have a deeply anomalous public way of life in this country. We have grown to expect “Easter Holidays” – but what are they? Those pundits who tell us that we, as a polity, have to be brave and keep religion out of political life – as if political life can be somehow closeted from the rest of our life (can the conservative liberal gad-fly Tony Abbott tell us how this is done in his case, please?) – are not so brave themselves to advocate the reformation of our public holidays. They’ll comply with AFL Games being played on Good Friday, but why have a Good Friday holiday anyway, particularly if so many are claiming to have no ongoing religious affiliation, let alone Christian conviction? Is it all about tourism then – stimulating the holiday timetable so that tourist operations can stay afloat? Or is it simply to maintain a kind of regimentation that wants to maintain a brave front with distinct Christian trimmings in the face of militant Islam, let alone militant atheism? (I haven’t heard many militant atheists asking these kinds of questions, but they may be doing so.) Is it that we can’t really admit the paganisation of Easter without opening the door further to confirm entrance of the Islamic view that Islam is the way because Christianity clearly no longer has a hold on the hearts of western citizens? So is “Easter” simply more pretending, this time because we don’t want to be that kind of “religion”.

Well, consider the manner in which the West’s ongoing adherence to the keeping of Christian festivals has now reached ridiculous heights, manifesting inherent incoherence if not complete brain-dead stupidity, let alone apostasy. Why can’t we Christian people (at least those of us who still profess faith in Christ Jesus) face up to the fact that we are being confronted with ongoing religious efforts to transform our faith into yet another effort to make life meaningful, born of a presumed and unassailable human autonomy? Why can’t the Christian people, the sheep of the flock of Jesus Christ, resist the ongoing public construal of their faith as merely their own efforts to attain a mythic joy through a concocted self-transcendence – “Please pass the chocolates, Vicar!”

Consider the British Prime Minister’s pathetic lament about the Cadbury company’s rebadging of its advertising for its annual egg hunt. Now admittedly, the UK PM has got other matters on her mind, and we certainly are victimised these days by news media and twitter storms blowing all kinds of things, sentences that were breathed in paragraphs, out of context and way out of proportion. We know that already. And so we had better also be careful,and not get inappropriate exercise by jumping to premature mediated conclusions about what the Archbishop of York might have said about John Cadbury the Quaker (1801-1889). 

But then think about it.  By referring to this commercially sponsored chocolate egg-fest, the phrase “the joy of Easter” is a flagrant playing with words anyway. What Christian minister inspired by John the Baptist is going to mount his or her pulpit and take Cadbury’s Australia to task – not for “air-brushing” faith from Easter – but to insist that to be Christianly consistent, John Cadbury would have condemned the entire exercise as yet another superficial instance of modern paganism’s hegemony, an idolatry worthy of public condemnation.

I make this suggestion because John Cadbury was a Christian believer. But keep in mind that as a Quaker he held no remit for the “sacred” festival of Easter. We are told by his Quaker descendants that he didn’t subscribe to such paganising festivals.

So then churchpersons eager to get a piece of the chocolate from this “storm in an egg-cup”, need to take a deep breath and ask themselves, as we are doing, why the Churches that claim to be the repositories of the Good News of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, have for so long  “airbrushed” the idolatry that abounds each year when we are stopped in our tracks by the “paschal full moon”, a holiday granted by ancient Gregorian calendrical calculations. Now that the Cadbury company is embroiled in such a controversy and the British PM feels impelled to lament the passing of the name of a chocolate festival which no longer gives such prominence to its “Easter” badging, we need to ask how it is that churches continue to identify this part of their church year with a festival that has become more and more a festival of chocolate.

We used to observe that with the Christianisation of the Roman Empire we also witnessed the paganised Romanising of Christianity. Likewise with the Eastering of Bunnies and Eggs do we not now encountered the Bunnified Chocolatising of Christianity?

If what has been reported of the statements of the British Parliament’s Leader of the Opposition means that he wants the chocolate company and the UK National Trust to reassure faithful chocolate devotees that the removal of the sacred word “Easter” from the egg hunt will not compromise any eclectically devout participation in Easter celebrations then  … well you can see the problem I trust even before we try to raise a Christian voice heard in the midst of this firestorm.

Let’s be plain about this. We may have long discussed how we now face what are nothing other than pagan versions of Christmas festivals dominating the late-capitalist, post-modern market place. As soon as Christmas is over, on the 26th of December, Coles and Woolworths stock up with Hot-Cross Buns (“Buy Early for Easter”) and then the pre-Easter religiosity – “I shop therefore I am” or “Shop until you drop” is then interspersed with a “Don’t forget fish for Lent”.

This too is part of the everyday problematic reality we face. And if we are not wise we can too easily be provoked into making our own rear-guard advertising, making our own apologies in order to safeguard our precious niche in the market place … Recently Australia had it’s “Cadbury-type” moment with Coopers Beer coming out and apologising for promoting civic discourse about SSM in association with the Bible Society.

But Nurturing Justice keeps on posting because Christian citizens stand in need of a Christian political option. Christian citizens live coram Deo, so we do not function, as, nor should we ever think of ourselves merely as, so many isolated individuals. Our task in life is something quite other than socially constructing own identities via our own paltry publicity efforts. But if any Bible Society, as a Christian commercial enterprise, or a beer company, along with churches, social welfare agencies, aid and development agencies, schools, households, or the man and the woman constituting a Christian marriage and growing a family, want to maintain even a shred of Christian public credibility in this highly compromised and compromising phase of the roll out of the pagan-humanistic world view, then we had all better face the awesome and difficult responsibility of developing a genuine Christian political option. I’m not saying that subscription to Nurturing Justice is the answer. But as we have said – this is not and never should be about seeking to give a good Christian account by inflicting “our Christian biffo” in the public square. No. In the first instance we will need to learn how to view ourselves in a distinctly Christian way and stop the nonsense of assuming that identity is somehow religiously neutral, and unrelated to how we drink our beer, frame our conversations and pass the chocolates (1 Corinthians 10:31).

And so, this communal work forging a Christian political option, is not so much for exercising “pressure” on parliament or even giving political biffo with respect to a whole range of coherently explained public policy issues held together by a faith in Jesus Christ the King of Kings … at least not in the first instance – we might say the “John the Baptist moment” is one of repentance and it will simply need a deepened appreciation of the Biblical call to love our neighbours with public justice. From that reassurance of our trust in the crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus of Nazareth, our calling will be, as it has ever been, to develop an obedient stand in the public and private places the Lord has allowed to be opened up to us so that there we can love him with everything we have and go on to love our neighbours as ourselves. That is the first and crucial step in maintaining a lawful res publica contribution.

We simply do not have that kind of integrity at the moment if we are not receiving it with the hands of repentant faith. John the Baptist’s “preparatory” call to Israel in the days before  Jesus’ manifestation to Israel applies …