Sunday, September 1, 2013

Phone call from Australian Christians reinforces separation between church and state

Since moving back to my mum and dad's house to house sit for them while they take a well earned holiday, I have fielded a couple of calls from people wanting to speak with them.

One such call was from the Australian Christians who wanted to know if Mum and Dad were available on election day and, explaining that they were on holiday, the caller (naturally assuming that I was a Christian) asked me if I was available to help.

If you know me at all you would know that I am a member of the Australian Labor Party and so when I said no because I believe in a separation of church and state and would be voting for a secular party, I was told that I 'hadn't thought it though'.

This seems a little unreasonable as I hold a degree in Politics and very interested in politics. It is inappropriate that a perfect stranger should tell me that I haven't thought it through just because I don't agree with him and the political party he represents.   

As I am a facebook addict, my status update following this phone call invited a few people to comment and many of them were interesting.

They range from avoiding any debate of any kind to the idea that human rights sit outside religious doctrine and that we don't need religious politicians in order to have a civil society went on to disagree with the idea that if a person doesn't agree with another's religious beliefs they are not a moral and ethical individual. 

Others pondered whether the introduction of Sharia Law by the Australian Government would assist the Australian Christian in reassessing their priorities in terms of separating organised religion and the state. 

You only have to go to Iran and other similar countries to see how dangerous theocracies are, especially for minority religions such as the Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Someone else wrote something along that Christians often assume that the only religion to get a say is theirs but in a pluralistic country you have to give equal weight to all religions. He went on to say how aggressive (his words not mine) Islam can be politically and separation between church and state is key to ensure moderation and governing for all citizens. 

It it not to say that politicians shouldn't be people of faith because at our democratically elected governments is a representation of the diverse Australian society and those who have religious convictions are an integral part of that. 

All religious groups are more than welcome to participate in the debate and, after pontificating about gay marriage and abortion, can work with the system to promote common themes in the bible (or other such text) such as the working on behalf of the marginalised, mentally ill and those who have the miss fortune of being homeless. 

It is important to be mindful of the plurality and secular nature of the Australian society and not to assume that a particular value systems can be transplanted on the Australian public. 

While some might go for the pre-enlightenment patriarchal paradigm of yesteryear, I'll be voting for progressive Labor Party values such as working for the common good, fairness at work, marriage equality, balancing environmental sustainability with economic progress  as well as a women's right to choose and gender equality in the workplace. 

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