The Australian Christian Lobby

November 14, 2007

The Age reports that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has launched a magazine aimed at influencing policy making on key election issues. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing – any special interest group has the right to lobby, just as any politician has the right to judge them based on the quality and content of any submission*. Let’s have a closer look:

The first edition, to be delivered to all federal politicians this week, focuses on industrial relations, the “War on Terror”, nuclear energy and housing affordability.

Interestingly non-controversial subjects – nothing highly charged or with specifically religious connotations like same sex marriage.

Editor David Yates said the publication aims to assess and critique public policy from a Christian perspective.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the Christian vote has never been canvassed as much by both political parties during a federal election.

Well, as a non-christian I think that this is a little worrying, but I doubt that there is anything more sinister behind that than popularist politics. Now that I think about it, I doubt that the Green/Global Warming vote has ever been canvassed so much by both major political parties before this election either.

Mr Wallace said Labor leader Kevin Rudd has re-engaged the Christian vote after many Christians turned against Labor inthe last election when former Labor leader Mark Latham failed to convey his beliefs during an interview on SBS television.

Well, I’ve said before that I don’t think religious affiliation (or lack thereof) should have any influence on eligibility for public office, but in general the whole thing sounds fairly benign on the first read – moderate, reasonable sounding christians just wanting to put their viewpoint forward. Fair enough.

But…**

I do think it is interesting that such widely varied christian groups should find such common cause, despite the differences that caused them to be separate from each other in the first place. I looked over their official website for some more insight and turned up some interesting information:

On the ACL General Information page:

The vision of the ACL is to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business and relate to each other as a community.

There is no sense in this vision of our wishing to see Australia a theocracy, but merely wanting to reestablish the rightful influence of those who believe in our Christian heritage.

Well, thank goodness they don’t want a theocracy, but I’m not too sure about this rightful stuff. And just what do they mean by “Christian principles and ethics”? What about the ethics of people of other faiths, or no faith***. Well, funny you should ask – from the FAQ (emphasis mine):

1. Why doesn’t ACL campaign on every issue that a Christian should be active about?

Due to resource limitations, not every issue that ACL could legitimately follow up will be actioned. At this stage of growth in the organisation the effort is being directed into activating the churches and other Christian constituents and forming relationships with parliamentarians at the Federal and State levels. Major issues that are clearly anti-biblical will be actioned. Other issues actioned will naturally increase as more supporters with gifts in different areas such as politics, economics, law, psychology, ethics and sociology can assess the biblical position of issues and work with the ACL.

Anti-biblical? Oh-oh.

2. What do I do if I disagree with a position that ACL takes on an issue?

Christians or those partial to Christian values provide the support base for the organisation. Although not everyone will not agree on all issues it is expected that ACL supporters share the common belief that Jesus is their Lord and Saviour. This does have implications, such that our source of truth and the justification for a position on a single issue will be based on the character of God and by critical analysis in relation to natural and special revelation (the Bible). Christians should stand together on major issues, but occasionally supporters may not fully agree with the ACL Board’s decisions. To maintain Christian political influence it is important to encourage the support of ACL on those issues, to take a mature approach and understand that agreement may not be unanimous on all issues.

How does one critically analyze special revelation? More special revelation? Hmm, so two statetments that their source of truth is (at least partially) based on on special revelation and scripture, specifically the bible. But which version? And just how do you justify “truth” that is dictated by such a source to people who don’t accept it as the inerrant word of an all powerful deity?

5. Why does ACL not use typical Christian language and phrases in correspondence?

It is important that the ACL lobby Government effectively. Therefore, it is important that in discussing issues with politicians and the media that our audience clearly understand our position. It is important that we explain our position without using terms and phrases that are only understood in the church. For this reason we encourage all our supporters to practice defending positions on various issues without using direct references to the Bible, even though this is where we derive our position.

Interesting. So the idea is to use a non-religious excuse, but it doesn’t have to be a very good one, because you derive your position from the bible regardless? Isn’t that a little deceitful?

Look, all of the christians that I know personally seem like really nice people****. The love their families, and they want the world to be a good place. And I suppose that with this in mind it’s easy to think of a “christian” lobby as all “wholesome family values”, “ethics” and “christian principles”, without looking too closely at the substance and source of these positions. A lot of good can come from such “christian” principles certainly, but as long as their basis lies in dogma or scripture that is the result of special revelation, they remain unassailable by non-christian reason and should not be a part of any rationale used to govern non-believers.

By all means lobby, but be honest about your reasoning. I guess it’s up to the politicians to keep a reasonable and fair perspective*****.


* If they dare the electoral cost of course. That cost is in direct proportion to the size and funding of the particular special interest group – the Ye Olde Morris Dancers of East Coburg are probably going to have less clout than the Beer Drinking Smokers Rifle Association For Shootin’, Drinkin’ And Smokin’. I guess that’s kind of where we rely on the integrity of the politicians [muffled laughter].
** Because there’s always a but. Isn’t there?
*** Yes, yes, atheists do have morals and ethics, but that’s an argument for another day.
**** Well, except for that one guy. But to be fair, he’d probably be a complete tool if he was an atheist as well. Some people just suck.
***** Yikes!

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