Church and [the first] state – a guide to democracy for NSW Christians. Part 4

This post is part of a series

T minus 3 days to go until the election and I am (just quietly) getting a bit excited. I’ve gone to Below the Line and made my own personal how-to-vote sheet, I’ve got a feel for the quirky parties I’d never heard of by starting here and going from there, I’ve chosen a polling station that I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to get a steak sandwich at. See! Democracy can be fun!

Today I’ve got another issue and non-issue for you. As always I welcome feedback and clarification.

Issue 2: The environment

As I mentioned in my first post, issues surrounding the environment didn’t get a hearing on the ACL’s NSW Votes website, and they got a naive treatment in the ACVI’s tick-box sheet.

One of the main reasons I hear that Christians in politics seem reticent to talk about the environment in any detail is that “Christians disagree on it”. But Christian ethics is not herd morality but heard morality. As we read the Bible and appreciate the richness of its teaching in the context of the story of salvation through Jesus Christ we come to a Christian understanding of things. This is what sets us apart from political parties. Where political parties can change their stance on issues based on a show of hands, Christians together approach the world Bible opened, thoughtfully loving the culture we are engaged in.

This has implications not only into our inter-personal relations but also our person-creation relations. Christians care for the environment as part of what I’ll clumsily call “the creation mandate” but also because of where we’re headed (our eschatology).

We care for the environment because we were created as two gardeners, who were to love the earth by working and guarding it (Gen 1-2). Though the earth now produces thorns and thistles (and floods and droughts) as a result of the fall, nevertheless our responsibility to love the world through working it and guarding it carries on (Gen 3). Now we shouldn’t think “Ok, the property developers and strip miners can “work” the ground and the conservationists can “guard” the ground and those are both goods!” Notice that Adam is charged with both responsibilities at once.

We also care about the environment because of our future (eschatology). Many Christians argue that “it’s all going to burn anyway so who cares”. I would argue that this is a misunderstanding of 2 Peter 3 but I haven’t got the space to go into this here. Douglas Moo has written extensively on this topic and you can hear a talk where he explains out the arguments for this creation being renewed and not replaced here.

As voters, we have a rare chance to make our environmental concern stretch beyond our recycling bins, our worm-farms, our veggie plots. As voters we can elect a government that works and guards the environment. One that presents the world we’re borrowing from God back to him at the end of this world and say “we did as best we could to reverse the effects of our own sinfulness”. Christians need to make environmental concern an important factor they consider in voting on Saturday.

To help you with this, a number of conservation groups in NSW came together to produce a paper for people trying to think through what good outcomes for the environment look like in NSW. It’s called the Natural Advantage Report and you can find it here.

So as before,

  • Go to the NSW Electoral Commission website and find out who’s standing for your electorate here. (if you don’t know which electorate you live in go here first)
  • There you’ll find the email addresses of the people standing (candidates) in your electorate.
  • Send your candidates an email asking them, should they win your seat, what they would do to work and guard our creation in NSW and sustain it for the future.

Non-issue 2: Foreign Policy

Last night I received an email from the ACL mailing list telling me why I shouldn’t vote for the Greens. In it they listed a number of policy areas that ‘[m]any Christians ought to be concerned by’. Have a look at the list and think about which issue seems to be the odd one out:

  • same-sex marriage
  • euthanasia
  • abortion
  • protections for religious freedom
  • Christian schools
  • Israel

Israel?!

I was so intrigued that I did some digging. The background to the comment is as it turns out, Fiona Byrne (Greens candidate for Marrickville – tipped by the ABC’s political analyst Anthony Green to win the seat) as Mayor of Marrickville supported a boycott of Israel to send the message to this country that the international community is deeply concerned by their human rights violations – particularly in the Gaza strip. Fiona Byrne is on the record as saying that she would support such measures being implemented at a state level (Crikey Story here).

I want to say two things about this; one pragmatic and one theological.

Firstly, it needs to be remembered that Foreign policy is a federal not a state issue. State governments can make pronouncements like boycotts, but ultimately these are symbolic rather than having any formal force. Moreover the chance of this actually getting a hearing in parliament is so small that it isn’t worth worrying about.

But the bigger question is why does this show up on a list of issues Christians should be concerned about? Could it be that it reveals a shonky understanding of our eschatology (a view that elevates the Nation-State of Israel as having cosmic importance in the coming of Christ) present within the ranks of the ACL? I’m trying to be generous here but I can’t for the life of me figure out any other explanation. I’d welcome some further information if you have any but I’m going to suggest that if Israeli-Palestinian relations is factoring into who you should vote for on Saturday, you may be over analysing this whole thing 🙂

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5 Comments

Filed under NSW Election 2011

5 responses to “Church and [the first] state – a guide to democracy for NSW Christians. Part 4

  1. Tim

    Regarding you non-issue, I’d also be interested to hear whether there is any form of Zionism happening in the ACL. The other option (to give them the benefit of the doubt?!) is that the ACL assumes that a portion of their readership is influenced by some form of American Zionism and that therefore they include this issue to appeal to who they think may be listening.

    But then maybe I’m being too generous…

  2. David

    I noticed that the 1st point the Natural Advantage Report calls upon the parties to do is to “cut the NSW contribution to climate change and act on opportunities to slash greenhouse pollution”. I take if from your endorsement of this report that you believe in AGW.

    Christians should be aware that there are hundrends (probably thousands) of scientists who do not believe in AGW. To see a list of the climate scientists who’d object to PM Gillard including them in her list of supporters, go to http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/gillard_deceives_again_i_am_not_alone/

    Professor Bob Carter is a geologist, environmental scientist and Emeritus Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs lists ten dishonest slogans about global warming, and ten little facts at:
    http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2011/03/bob-carter

    Whilst this is a state election, the Carbon Dioxide Tax and other “green policies” pushed by those at a state level who believe in AGW are things that will affect people in NSW. People should read both sides of this debate before voting.

    • steveboxwell

      Thanks for your thoughts David.

      Yes, I do believe in Climate Change is happening, though I would note that the Natural Advantage report does not major on climate science to the exclusion of all other environmental concerns.

      I’d direct anyone wanting to think through the legitimacy of the claims of climate science and it’s calls on us ethically to Byron’s blog (nothing-new-under-the-sun.blogspot.com), or to a recently released book “Keeping God’s Earth” which is a great book by both scientists who are Christians and Theologians who are thinking about environmental issues.

  3. –Firstly, it needs to be remembered that Foreign policy is a federal not a state issue. —
    A forteriori, then, isn’t it even less of a local issue?

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