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behind appearances: fundamentalism « Previous | |Next »
October 1, 2004

The political campaign, as reported in the media, appears to be like this:

CartoonMoir21.jpg
Moir

The ALP has spent around $10.8 billion whilst the Coalition has spent $12.7 billion. The bait, in which each side matches the other throughout the campaign, is boring. It has become a turnoff. What all the detail means has turned into a blur. I've tuned out of the bait campaign. The buckets of cash make no sense anymore.

Moir's view, is misleading, as we have this innovative policy which cuts through the LIB-LAB election bait. Latham has yet to do anything about forests though. He is still waiting for Howard to play his hand.

What is happening behind the appearances of the election bait is the re-entry of fundamentalist religion into politics. We saw this initially with the appearance of Family First. Then we saw it with faith being used as a criteria of public policy with the intervention Sydney Archbishop George Pell his fellow Catholic, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen and his fellow Anglican Archbishop, Melbourne's Peter Watson, who criticized the ALP schools policy because it "is likely to benefit schools of one faith background largely at the expense of another".

The Roman Catholic Church has jump into bed with their well-heeled Anglican counterparts to openly campaign against Labor's education policy. John Quiggin comments on this, as does Ken Parish. I interpret the remarks to mean faith not reason (policies based on need) is should be used to decide public policy options If that is what being said, then it is quite disturbing.

Michael Costello, writing in The Australian, is also disturbed. He asks:


"Was that the ghost of Daniel Mannix who walked the political stage this week? Or was it just a muted echo of battles long ago? Archbishop Mannix famously vilified Labor after World War II, putting the fear of God into Australian Catholics who wanted to vote for the party of the working people...What turned these men of the cloth back into Mannix-style marauders against Labor?.... their intervention seems to be part of a larger and extremely worrying mosaic of religious involvement in this federal election.

From the Hillsong Church in Sydney's west to the Assembly of God in Paradise, South Australia -- yes, truly -- there seems to have been a marshalling of faith forces, and all against Labor. The Family First Party associated with the Assembly of God church could well keep several marginal seats across Australia in Liberal hands after the preference deal done with John Howard."


A conservative and authoritarian Archbishop Pell as the new Archbishop Mannix? It's a good image, even it if is a party political one.

A defence of Family First by Piers Ackerman. He talks about the commonsense values that made this country and gave the rest of the Western nations the basis for their moral and cultural global leadership. I presume this is this what he has in mind.

Saint has some worries. Some excellent background by Natham at Baliset Palimpsest. Also check out Alans views over at Southerly Buster.

I too have worries. Mine are not about a religiously informed social conservatism centred on the views of the Assemblies of God church eg., increasing censorship, the reshaping of tax and family benefits to favour single-income families with a stay-at-home mother and the Marriage Act. Mine are more about the fundamentalist's crusading black and white, good v evil mentality that is ultimately based on blind faith about the forces of God v the dark forces of the earth.

Why do I worry? This authoritarian mentality, because it is intolerant of difference, sees public reason as the enemy that needs to be destroyed. Reason corrodes faith. Faith is the touchstone. That may be okay as a guide for private life, but not for public policy formation.

It is not just the evangelical Christian's fundamentalism and worship experience I have in mind. A fundamentalist mentality has already entered our political discourse with the Right Wing Death Beasts. These are on a Lefty-bashing crusade to kill off their political enemy. This tabloid style is entrapped within the political party divide, and it has the effect of muffling public debate across the mediascape. The attack dogs include Andrew Bolt of the Herald Sun, Piers Akerman of The Telegraph, Tim Blair of The Bulletin.

The fundamentalist political mentality sidesteps arguments on issues from different perspectives to smear and mock the opponents’ politics. This fundamentalist mentality is always about winning through destroying the enemy. I wonder what their worship experience is? Squashing a booted heel into the bleeding body of the ALP?

The religious fundamentalist have lots of the vision thing. They want to roll back liberalism and erode the liberal church and state distinction. That is not a vision I share.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:11 PM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

It took the fundies a couple of decades to reach critical mass in the US, they seem to be close to that point right now in Oz, maybe one electoral cycle away from having a real impact.

How do we knock this on it's head?

If Latham wins the election, I suggest breaking up the media ologopoly then re-writing and enforcing all x media laws to prevent the successful fundie take over of the framing of all public issues by them in outlets like FOX.

They have a very corrupting influence on the body politic through their ability to mobilise efficiently their forces from the pulpit, much like our favourite mullas.

They already have a large presence in community television on the ground in Melbourne and Sydney. They work from the ground up and are a very patient group with a long term view.


Have you noticed how many websites and newspapers refuse to make any mention of family first policies - presumably because it may wreck their campaign against the fundamentalists, godbotherers, AOG or others. [eg SMH I think have not mentioned one major policy of Family First - their only coverage is about the candidates being religious]

If their major policies wer publicied, some people may actually see some of them as common sense policies. We wouldnt want the public to know that would we?

I picked up some time ago and commented generally that Islamic fundamentalism would begin to drive the West to examine it's value set and perhaps seek sanctuary in its Judeo-Christian roots again. Sooner or later moral relativism runs headlong into the Stargate of empty nothingness. The worm has turned and we have Wahhabist/Jihadist Islam to thank for it. I wouldn't worry too much about a return to the Middle Ages though. It was inevitable that we would overdose on the heady elixir of post modern relativism. Beware of 'overboarders' son, my dad would always say. Mainstream Islam is also having to come to grips with this too.

The US religious right has a long record of posting reasonable policies that bear little resemblance to their actual conduct in government. If Family First is not committed to the same kind of stealth politics, why the large effort to conceal their AOG linkage?

Anon,
It is also true that the Australian Financial Review has not noticed the policies of Family First, even though these are in opposition to the AFR's economy first perspective.

What is beign noticed is the way the Family First has set itself up as a preference machine for the Coalition in order to leverage itself through Liberal preferences into the Senate.

Some policies have been noticed:the tough stance on drugs; the opposition to teeenage sexuality; the policy of sexual abstinence before marriage; an understanding of marriage based on a hostility to homosexuality; the patriarchal nature of the family; and the anti-porn position.

Are all these commonsense policies? If not which ones?

Alan over at Southerly Buster shows how the religious fundamental language changes.Alan is referring to the US experience. He says:

"Downplaying Christian affiliation has become a tried and true strategy of American conservative evangelical organizations ...During the 1990s.... [the] robustly religious organizations began coaching their local leaders and campaign workers to avoid speaking what some strategists called 'Christianese' - the kind of overtly religious language, sprinkled with Biblical allusions and evangelical code-words ('born again', 'sin', 'salvation') likely to alienate secular voters. Instead, candidates and recruiters learnt to emphasise terms like 'family', 'common sense' and 'decent'."

So common sense stands for the fundamental notion of judging human action in terms of sin.

That is not an appropriate basis on which to make public policy. Why? Because it erodes the liberal distinciton between church and state upon which our federal democracy is founded.

What we have is more than social conservatism note in my previous comment. We also have a political conservatism that is out to roll back political liberalism.

It is probably fair to accede that the 'common sense' can emerge from any or many sources, be it the Bible, the Koran or the utterings of political philosophers down the years. Whether or not any particular tenet becomes etched into the conventional wisdom, or our common sense, is probably a matter of empirical rigour. Clearly the common sense has changed and adapted to new realities. Now it may simply be that from time to time the common sense may be lost or challenged by new realities. For example the sexual revolution, in washing away some entrenched social mores, could be brought about by an alignment of forces. The discovery of the contraceptive pill, medical advances in overcoming STDs, the economic capacity to afford supporting parents benefits and the like. Consequently, we may enter a period of changed or altered common sense or conventional wisdom. Now over time that may come to be challenged again by things like AIDS and the empirical weight of social problem children, who are mothered only with the limited resources of SPB and the like. This may cause a change or indeed an about face in our notion of the common sense. It may well be that the lead in this common sense comes from the AOG, which some may see as a return to dangerous conservatism or indeed fundamentalism. These same critics may fail to see their own entrenched fundamental conservatism, in the face of new realities, particularly when they have a vested interest in hanging on to their current view of the common sense.

It is of course the weight of empirical knowledge and information gathering, that will continually challenge and mould the common sense, albeit that some tenets continue faithfully again and again, to be the foundations of it.

Common sense does not equal religious.

Living in SA, I understand that the major acheivement of Family FIrst in the SA parliament has been seeing hundreds of investigations and charges into child abuse through their bill. No other 'non religious' party - (to quote current debate only) was interested to do the same. What about things like Superannuation access for first home buyers? Income splitting for one income families? Tax deductible education expesnes for private and public school parents? National beverage container legislation to help the environment? from their policy summary on their website. I cannot find on their website some of the so called policies that others on this blog talk about. Whilst many Christians may agree with the sentiments of some of these comments - I dont see them as policies of the party on their website. Isnt that a bit like saying that the ALP will make all mums join a union becasuse they like unions - it is not their policy? And on the Family First website they do refer to the AOG roots of the party. I think there is a bit of hysteria around.

very interesting

Anon- I think you missed the point of Gary's post.

Also thanks for the copy of the FF policies from their front page.

A link would have been sufficient (although as a long time reader of this blog, I suspect that most readers here, have, like Gary, read it)

FF is to be commended for the introduction of their child abuse bill, as are Anglican priests like Dr Owers and countless others who have put their neck on the line to see many perpetrators exposed and brought to justice.

I live in SA too.

Anon,
Saint is right about the argument of the post.

It would make a distinction between the offical policies of Family First and the fundamentalist mentality of the politicised religious movement.

You are talking about the official policies.Some of these have been innovative.

My concern in the post is with the fundamentalist mentality within the world of public policy.

"My concern in the post is with the fundamentalist mentality within the world of public policy."
Well with Pat Oshane calling for UN intervention in the Pitjatjantjara lands, after total frustration with the secular results of both major parties' policies an empirical question might be being raised. Would more Pat Oshanes be produced from a continuation of a liberal, petrol sniffing upbringing, or perhaps a more fundamentalist approach by Lutheran missionaries or the likes of Family First? It may well be that you can take fundamental liberalism too far.

Correction: it was Lowitja O'Donohue calling for World Vision intervention.

Observa

There is fundamentalism in each political philosophy including liberalism.

But the Family First one is note for its extremism. Consider this report in The Australian about a leaflet published by a Family First Victorian Senate candidate, Danny Nalliah, of the Catch the Fire Ministries. This says:

"Spot Satan's strongholds in the areas you are living (brothels, gambling places, bottleshops, mosque, temples -- Freemasons/Buddhist/Hindu etc, witchcraft," the leaflet says.

"If you are ready to pray against it, do so. If not, bring it to your church and ask your intercessors, through the pastor, to pull these strongholds down."

Thsi is the kind of fundamentalism that says lesbians were witches that should be burned at the stake.

It is a different order than Lowitja O'Donohue calling for UN intervention in the Pitjatjantjara lands--don't you think.