waking up to politics

It’s happened to me a couple of times recently. Like many other, I’ve woken up to politics. Tuning in to one imminent political announcement after another. First it was the change of Prime Minister. And now we’ve had the announcement of the August 21 Federal election date.

Whatever else I might want to make of either of these events, I’ve been shocked by how gripping I’ve found them. For me, this is largely personal — stemming from my long-cultivated studied disregard for politics. A studied disregard that was fuelled and given legitimacy by some reservations I’ve had about the church getting mixed up in politics (to promote ‘kingdom values’ or something).

Now I get that it’s not really possible to produce a universally tolerant regime — even the most progressive, most enlightened societies have shown themselves ruthlessly intolerant at points, excluding those people and groups that they feel threaten their very existence. I also get that if you believe (as I do) that the Christian good news points you to the best way to live, then that is actually true — true true, not just true for believers but not for anyone else.

I guess I’ve just tended to be wary of what some theological ethicists label ‘Constantinianism’, referring to the way the conversion of Emperor Constantine (and, nominally, the whole Roman Empire with him) opened the door for people to adopt Christian ‘values’ as a matter of political expediency rather than as a genuine response to what God’s done in Jesus. And I’m still wary of this.

All of which makes how gripping and interesting (and occasionally appalling) I’ve found recent developments in Australian Federal politics slightly puzzling to me: Why am I so fascinated? As a Christian, what should I make of these developments? And how should I respond? These are the sort of questions I hope to take up — and (tentatively) answer — in the coming weeks…

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3 comments

  1. I, on the other hand, am an inveterate political junky. Probably comes from living in Canberra for 10 years. I’ve made the pilgrimage to the National Tally room for the last 4 elections, and I’m planning on attending again this year.
    Part of my fascination probably arose from the fact that there’s nothing much else to do in Canberra. But also, I’m captivated by the fact of voting as a concrete expression of political community. I usually spend time on election day touring around polling stations soaking up the vibe. (I once spent so much time doing this that I forgot to vote)
    In Australia, voting is a kind coerced sharing, like paying taxes. For all its corruptions, the moment of voting is a moment in which we enact our participation in each others lives. For one day every 3 years, we are forced to pay attention to each other. I love it.

  2. Interesting! Myself, as an Anglo-Irish (born in Dublin). I somewhat followed my father’s political structure & mind..a conservative. But he was in the RAF during WW2, and a spitfire pilot. And yeah I love Edmund Burke, for the most part. Of course ya can’t become a Royal Marine and be a liberal, lol. I’m always just an old bootneck. I look at the casualty list weekly from Afghanistan. Thank God he still makes some men choose the military life! Not any perfection of course, but usually men that know right and wrong, and some come to see the God of heaven, by grace & glory!

  3. Much like poetry or opera, I like the idea of liking politics and every time an election is announced I think, “This year I will not squander the privilege of being able to cast a vote in a national election.” However, then I get that whiff of low brow pragmatism that lurks throughout the Australian political system. I look out in hope for an emerging statesman or woman only to find the latest face that the party-room hacks consider electable in a Westminster system. I suppose, and much to my shame, I am all too easily lost in the Sorkin universe waiting for Jed Bartlett.

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