I was hoping Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s comments on Q&A Monday night would be forgotten and we could all pretend it didn’t happen. Not because it wasn’t important. It was. Rather because it isn’t helpful. I’ll explain in a moment. First, allow me to make a few comments on what happened.
Why is this significant?
There are several reasons this interchange was important. First, the Australian Prime Minister publicly ridiculed Christianity as a lie and a hoax. He did so by dismissing any sort of meaningful interpretation of the Scriptures with a “for goodness sake!” and thrown up hands. This is rank unbelief of the same magnitude as the theological Liberalism of previous centuries. To hold that the Bible is a stack of myths and legends cobbled together with no regard for the truth is an underhanded attack on everything Christianity is and is about. It is not an uncommon view, but it is an utter rejection of the Christian faith which is a propositional faith built on a propositional text.
Second, the Australian Prime Minister publicly misrepresented Christianity. His words were “The Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition because St. Paul said in the New Testament ‘slaves be obedient to your masters.’ … What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. Loving your fellow man.” These statements simply aren’t true. Scripture does not endorse slavery. Even in ancient cultures where slavery was a normal way of life, Israel’s theocratically instituted civil law was careful to regulate slavery to ensure fair treatment and ultimate release. Paul’s statements in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 don’t endorse slavery in the least. Paul never endorsed slavery. For those who understand anything about the historical context, the slightest indication from Paul could have easily led to a mass uprising and the slaughter of countless souls not to mention the politicisation of Christianity and a resulting inability to preach the gospel. Even Martin Luther experienced this when his words were twisted to support the Peasants’ War resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 people. Paul’s purpose was not social agitation but the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To misunderstand this as endorsement of slavery is an amateur mistake.
Third, the Australian Prime Minister scored cheap points at the expense of a religious minority. Q&A is hardly a debate. The questioner had a hostile audience, an irenic posture, and no right of reply. But this didn’t stop the Prime Minister from misrepresenting, ridiculing, and insulting Christianity. Rather, he patronised Christianity by placing himself as one and more than that, as a spokesman for Christianity in the very act of savaging it. Our former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, would never have dared treat a minority with such insensitivity and she was an atheist!
Why this isn’t helpful
With all that said, why don’t I think the question was helpful? First, the election is about choosing a prime minister, not a pastor. As a theologian, Kevin Rudd is clueless. But this election isn’t about his theological prowess. It’s about his character, his ability to govern well, and his policy.
Second, the intent of the question is unclear. Was he trying to help Kevin Rudd recognise that he is not Christian and call him to faith and repentance? If so, this was not the time or place. He knew full well he wouldn’t get a chance to argue his case so his question needed to be clear and political. A helpful question might have gone something like this: “I’m a Christian pastor who holds that gay marriage is unbiblical. If you are elected, will you protect my right to refuse to perform a same-sex wedding?”
Third, if you’re wanting to have a go at Rudd, bringing the issue of same-sex marriage to the centre of the campaign probably isn’t hurting him as much as you think. This incident—for better or for worse—made Rudd look good to the majority of voters and for the very reason this pastor seemed to oppose him.
Prime Minister Rudd’s comments were inappropriate and offensive to a large minority of Australians whom he chose to ridicule rather than respectfully disagree with. It is the ironic bigotry of forced-tolerance.
Let us pray that our response may demonstrate that we love God and his gospel more than any political issue or outcome.
May we vote conscientiously and then go on with our lives quietly and peacefully, remembering that our first citizenship is in another world.
Grace to you.