Tuesday, December 1, 2009

God on his side, lucky us.


By a strange quirk of fate, politics and faith I’m a member of the same church congregation as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd: St John The Baptist Anglican Church in Canberra. By a stranger quirk I was previously a member of Kevin Rudd’s previous congregation, St John The Baptist Anglican Church in Brisbane. He was also my local member. The PM’s religiosity, however, is no comfort to me. His conservative, right-wing views give me spiritual indigestion. He once described himself as a very simple Christian, entirely happy with orthodoxy, never wanting to question too deeply the strange mixture of myth, wish-fulfilment, and historical excrescence that is the Anglican creed. The fact of 2,000 years of tradition determined entirely by men, and partly by ruthless church politics, (and heresy trials, witch-hunts, inquisitions and torture) is enough for him. To be saved, to be justified, all he has to do is believe, just swallow it all with the wafer and the wine.

Unfortunately that tends all too often to a belief, no matter what his actions, that he has God on his side. He’s rapidly becoming a colourless zealot, a pale and purposeful prophet of self-righteousness. There is in this PM no question as to God’s superiority over man, and therefore Authority’s right to rule over people. When the ACT local government passed a law allowing gay marriage the Howard government moved to strike down the law without hesitation. When Labor took power a year and a half ago the progressive ACT government passed the laws again, expecting more tolerance and concern for equal rights from Rudd. They were disabused of this notion quick-smart. Marriage is for straight couples who make babies only. No procreation, no legislation. Out it went.

I was somewhat more hopeful when the ACT government tried again a month ago, framing legislation that allowed “gay and lesbian couples to create their civil partnerships through a legally-binding ceremony before friends and family.” The bill was innocuous enough, having all the legal rights of straight marriages but being distinctly separate from the laws applying to straight marriages. It couldn’t therefore be struck down by the Federal Government as contravening the Marriages Act.

But that wasn’t good enough for the right-wing Australian Christian Lobby. They lobbied the Federal Attorney General who put pressure on the ACT government. Changes will be made. The civil unions can still be registered and have similar rights to ‘married’ couples. But no ceremony will be allowed. Licensed civil celebrants will not have the power to make any ceremony they conduct automatically registered with the ACT Registry. That will have to be done separately, by lodging paperwork and paying a fee to the Registrar. In short, no ‘marriage’ of the legal and the ceremonial, the official and the spiritual. You’re only fags and lesbians, after all. And presumably the spawn of Satan.

Kevin Rudd was once called ‘Harry Potter’ for his humourless policy-wonk approach to debate and discussion. But he’s far more the ‘be head-boy and teachers-pet at all costs’ intellectual snob than his bespectacled alter-ego. I’ve also very nearly had a gutful of his policy-poor practical politics; his arrogant, workaholic bully-boy work style and his condescending bore-you-to-death-with-the-details method of steamrolling all opposition to his ideas, no matter how dull they may be. His drive to impose his right-wing, knee-jerk opinions framed as ineluctable truth is unfortunately only too effective in the Labor Party. Never a party over-endowed with first-class minds at any time Kevin can cow them with words and bluff them with the ultimate weapon, success. He is every inch, “A parish Demagogue.” As Shelley said of Christ himself.

Now the Liberal Party, in a danse-macabre of self-immolation, has selected, almost by accident, another zealot. Tony ‘the Mad Monk’ Abbot, a man whose name is only too indicative of his Catholic faith. Rudd has taken the Labor Party to the right, his faith a prime mover in this pilgrim’s progress. Abbot will, without any doubt, drag the Liberal Party even further to the right than it’s motley of “the sky isn’t falling” climate sceptics, it’s union-bashers and knee-jerk boot-boys could have ever dreamed possible under than the late but unlamented John Howard, their still-not-quite-dead silverback alpha-chimp.

It’s hard to know where to start with Abbot. He has been so unlikely a candidate that I’ve barely given him much thought, so obvious is his unsuitability for leadership. A failed seminarian of the Cardinal Pell Catholic mafia, a boot-in-mouth Howard apologist, and consummate party head-kicker. No doubt these qualities will heal all divisions, mend all broken hearts, and bring an air of sweetness and light to his parliamentary colleagues. The odour of sanctity, no less.

Elsewhere, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that he will lead the Liberals to their worst election defeat of all time. In his slightly stunned press conference following his election Abbot quoted Paul Keating when talking about the Emissions Trading Scheme:

"'If you don't understand it, don't vote for it. If you do understand it, you'd never vote for it."

I pray to Gods both Anglican and Catholic that this will apply to the Liberal Party too.


PS: this man was last seen wandering the corridoors of Parliament House in a confused condition. Can you help identify him?

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