Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On new parties and old christians

Firstly dear readers a quick apology for being so long between posts.

Today I seenews of a new political party that goes by the horrendous name of the Republican Democratic Party. Its founders (Peter Pyke and Graham Higgins) simultaneously announced that the RepDems would be unfettered by "outdated left-right models of the past" but that it would "appeal to people in the broad centre, including Australians on the intelligent left and the compassionate right."

I'd like to see a bit more before I pass judgement. Thus far it just looks like another "pox on both your houses" party. It possibly benefits over the old Australian Democrats by at least aiming to position in the Centre. But what else do they stand for other than an Australian "third way". Meanwhile i the Penrith by-electio the latest hurrah for the Dems was a 0.9% share of the formal vote. And this in a poll widely conceived to be a stand-out for a protest vote.

Richard Farmer writing in Crikey suggested the new party needs a "name" like Don Chipp was for the Dems. My sense is they need to work harder at a few defining issues.

First among these is the idea that embracing the capitalist market state is not the same as accepting that "what's good for BHP is good for the country" (to praphrase a quote originaly made by GM. It is also not about promoting the idea that "market failure" is an excuse for regulation. Ultimately all markets fail, they just fail by less than a centrally planned economy. The objective of government is not to choose between markets and regulation, but to establish the set of regulations that enable markets to operate efficiently and, to a degree, equitably.

The second area to sort out is exactly where they stand on what was the original great divide between Democrats and Republicans - which is the role of central Government, both with respect to State Governments and individuals. The Republicans were actually the good guys in the war between the states - believing as they did in the responsibility of the Federal Government to outlaw slavery. But the other difference is between a strong support for representative democracy over direct democracy - but that distinction is breaking down as fruit loops from the tea party movement misinterpret "freedom and liberty".

The third area is the one the Democrats could have made their own and didn't - the real meaning of the separation of church and state. We saw this week both leaders go to address a "2010 Make It Count" conference organised by the Australian Christian Lobby. I seriously believe that churches should be prohibited from being actively involved in politics and so should religions. We react massively against the Muslim demands for a theocratic state, we battled against it in the reformation, and yet we tolerate this nonsense.

That is to say nothing of the repeated mantra that "our civilisation is inconceivable without the Christian faith" from Mr Abbott. Actually it is more a miracle that we've sustained it. Democracy had to be fought for against the clutches of the church he holds dear. he church of which the PM claims membership is one of the few establishment" churches left and still vests the head of the church in the head of state.

I will write at greater length on my twin beliefs that the Christian bible and religious faith in and of themselves are "forces for good". But at the same time I can only accept that society as a whole needs to be organised around secular values of human rights - so that these values can be shared by all irrespective of faith.

Christopher Hitchens work "God is not Great" makes very well the cases for why creation does not provide a scientific case for the existence of god, and for how the scriptures of different faiths have been the basis of much global misery. Thankfully, and unlike Richard Dawkins, he merely asks that the religious understand their bounds. I go one step further, the truly religious christian who values the ethical principles of their faith - especially those of the new testament - should embrace the project for standardising a global secular humanist ethic.

Meanwhile, the hypocricy of the Christians gathering to lecture on "protecting children" is breathtaking. I think Hitchens has expressed greater outrage about the exploitation of children than any of them. And as we survey the sorry state of churches it is hard to not conclude that the organised churches have been the greatest abusers and "sexualisetrs" of children on the planet.


Anonymous said...

Great post - I agree with many of your thoughts.

As a Christian, I too believe that churches/religions should support a secular State, and focus their time working effectively in the community to provide care and empower people to achieve the most from life.

Vic N said...

Hear hear. Organised religion is far too malevolent a force to be mixed up in soemthing as potent as politics. And I'm always amazed that at 90% of the time the religious come in on the side of the rich and powerful, and not the oppressed and downtrodden. I think a good argument can be made that a great deal of the development of civilisation consists of people slowly throwing off the yolk of religion and adopting humanist principles. As Hitchens is very good at pointing out, the Old Testament is simply grotesque, and the New Testament immoral, a tract nobody actually lives by. "Forces for Good"??? Not so sure - I'd argue there have been important people of faith who have done good, great and brave good, often in contradiction to the Bible....english christians opposing slavery in the 19th century, despite the Bible's enthusiastic endorsement for example..... My bias is that humanism is needed to civilise the barbarities of the religions, who, like investment bankers, should never be trusted. And don't get me started on the Koran or the Talmud!!!