Passing bull 188 –Faith and politics


When politicians say that they don’t let their faith interfere with their politics, they are usually talking pure bullshit.  Among other things, in this country their faith will usually include subscription to the Ten Commandments.  Indeed, that dispensation is frequently touted as the cornerstone of that wonderful construct called Western or Judaeo-Christian Civilisation.  Among other things, it contains a proscription of murder, and not many politicians claim a freedom to commit murder.

But some politicians are driven to act or vote in a certain way by their religious faith – or at least by opinions that they claim are driven by their religious faith.  The most common examples in Australia are abortion, euthanasia, and same sex marriage.  Many people here think that the first of those issues is horrifically driven in the U S by religious bigots.  There are of course problems in logic when people try to impose on other people values that ultimately rest on faith which in turn rests on revelation.  You can see this most clearly when you consider how many members of the U S Congress feel driven by their faith to deny evolution.  For most people, the scientific proof of that theory is so complete that people who refuse to acknowledge it are hard to distinguish from lunatics.  Some now have similar views about climate change.

As was his wont, Kant came to the heart of the matter.

We have noted that a church dispenses with the most important mark of truth, namely, a rightful claim to universality, when it bases itself upon a revealed faith.  For such a faith, being historical (even though it be far more widely disseminated and more completely secured for remotest posterity through the agency of Scripture) can never be universally communicated so as to produce conviction.

But when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount or something as soft, like compassion, the mood changes.  There looks to be some unstated premise that soft religion does not sit well with hard politics.  When we get serious, we are not keen to be too scrupulous.  The nearest I can find to a statement of this spiritual no-fly zone comes from the biography of Salisbury by Andrew Roberts.

……foreign policy was about raw Realpolitik, not morality. ‘No one dreams of conducting national affairs with the principles which are prescribed to individuals.  The meek and poor spirited among nations are not to be blessed, and the common sense of Christendom has always prescribed for national policy principles diametrically opposed to those that are laid down in the Sermon on the Mount’. Grand talk by politicians about the rights of mankind and serving humanity, rather than purely the national interest, were, for Cecil [Salisbury], simply so much cant.

Christendom does not march in step with Christianity.   Although you will not find any warrant for this split in  scripture, it would be hard to get the dogma stated more point-blank than in this proclamation by an imperialist Tory .  But how on earth else could England have ruled its empire?  Was the Empress of India going to allow the Untouchables to inherit just one iota of her slice of the earth?

But precisely this doctrine is employed in an unstated manner by our governments all the time.  We see it most clearly with refugees.  If you suggest that we are not showing compassion, you may be asked to leave the room.  When we made a law to facilitate medical aid to refugees from doctors, we got the following:

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was reported as saying that members of the medical profession ‘erred on the side of compassion’.

‘Compassion’ is a very New Testament term.  The Hippocratic Oath relevantly says ‘I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing’.  It is in my view unspeakable hypocrisy for people like Morrison or Abbott to condemn compassion as an error while claiming to follow the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.  The man called Christ was nothing if not compassionate.

And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.  (Matthew 14:14).

Speaking entirely for myself, this particular divorce between Church and State is bad at each end.


The question left open by the extraordinary action at NAB is: what more does the bank know about its leadership team.  Surely respected leaders would not change based on a couple of opinionated paragraphs.  It is clear the board panicked.

John Durie, The Australian, 8 February, 2018

Indeed, they [other bank directors and executives] should be thankful that they still have their jobs, because if Thorburn and Henry had to go, then they all should have gone….royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne was wrong to single out Henry aggressively in his report.  If Henry’s performance in the chair was didactive or ‘arrogant’, so what?

Adam Creighton, The Australian, 8 February 2018

The ignorance and insolence of these remarks knows no bounds.  The second appears beside an article dealing with a public apology by Henry.  How could two experienced reporters be so out of touch?  Forty years ago there would have been no discussion.  The resignations would have been tabled first thing.  They were fired for what they or did not do, and not because of what someone said.  God only knows what the shareholders may have done if these people had not gone – they were already on the point of mutiny.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s