How to Vote

On Saturday Australia votes and (broadly speaking) as a result we will get the government we deserve. Vote like a donkey (i.e. do not fill in the forms) and expect to be governed by donkeys. Vote thoughtfully and you at least have a chance of being governed by people who care about where we are headed as a country.

The image below reflects some of what happened in the UK over the weekend. It seems a bunch of people didn’t do their homework and simply cast a vote without realising what they were doing. So on Sunday morning Google trends shows ‘What is the EU?’ and ‘What does it mean to leave the EU?’ as the two most significant search trends for UK citizens after the vote…

euThe problem is that after the vote its too late to do your homework.

And we need to learn from that, so come Sunday morning we don’t set google trends humming with ‘who is the Pirate Party?’

Unlikely that will actually happen I realise, but you get the point. An uninformed vote is irresponsible and a waste of the privilege we have in this country. That said an informed vote is complex and laden with tension because no one party ‘ticks all the boxes’ on everything. I voted last week as we will be on holidays on Saturday and as I left the voting booth I felt dirty – compromised – because I couldn’t endorse everything about the mob I voted for. But I would have felt that no matter who I cast my vote for.

So how do we form a vote as Christians?

There are a few helpful articles here:

I spoke to this issue yesterday at church and offered my own ‘how to vote’ proposal. The topic is intended to be provocative and evoke a bit of a ‘who do you think you are to tell me how to vote!’ response, but its actually different to telling you who to vote for. Deciding ‘how to vote’ is on one hand very simple, but on the other requires thought, interaction and careful reflection.

Hamo’s ‘how to vote’ guide is simply this:

  1. View all parties policies thru the lens of the kingdom of God and the teaching of Jesus. Use the sermon on the mount, use the Gospels, but try and see who lines up best with the stuff Jesus was on about. That’s both simple and complex, because no one is a perfect fit.
  2. Pray, read, discuss and repeat… I’m sure many of pray and read, but the ‘discuss’ element often gets tetchy and we shy away from letting people know who we will vote for or how we are going in our thinking. What this second stage does is tests our concerns against the way other Christians read the Bible and read the policies. God put us in community right?… Well part of that is because we are able to think better together than on our own. Alone, we are limited in our thinking, but when we start to interact with other Christians we have to explain our positions or accept that maybe we need to re-think. Threatening? It doesn’t have to be… That’s why the third part matters.
  3. Agree to live in harmony no matter what. I don’t intend to malign anyone for voting in a different way to me because they have made the best call they can with the info they have and the issues they see as core to the kingdom. So if we know that there is a commitment to one another that goes beyond our political preferences then we can love one another whether we vote Liberal or Green.

My belief is that for all of us there are some issues that matter more than others and they will give strongest shape to our final decision. Some of us will see religious freedom as the biggest issue, while others will fight to the death for the barrier reef.

For me the ‘clincher issue’ was asylum seekers and our inhumane treatment of those in detention. I didn’t want to go see ‘Chasing Asylum’ last week, but as I went I prayed ‘help me to see something worthwhile in this… help me to know what I am doing here…’ The outcome was that I left having decided not to vote for anyone who could endorse this form of suffering and to cast my vote for those who would seek to end it and treat people more compassionately.

Its slim pickings when you choose to make that a ‘filter’… and in making that choice I inevitably voted for some people who hold different perspectives to me on other issues. But I know what I’ve done and I’m prepared to live with the consequences of that – both good and bad.

So, that’s Hamo’s How to Vote guide for yet another election…

Have fun voting as we will be somewhere between Geraldton and Carnarvon on that day 🙂






To Weep With Those Who Weep

asylum web








‘Want to go see ‘Chasing Asylum’ with me?’ Danelle asked a few weeks back.

‘Dunno…’ I replied.

‘Why dunno?’

‘Because I already know the story and I’ll probably just end up pissed off, frustrated and feeling powerless at what’s happening… not sure I can stomach it. I hate being told there is a huge problem – oh and by the way – you can’t do anything to fix it.’

I still hadn’t decided at 5.00 tonight and the movie began at 6.30. In the end I agreed to go. I prayed as we drove… what do I need to see in this tonight?

And I did end up feeling pissed off and powerless, but perhaps that’s beside the point. The story wasn’t new – much of it I had heard before – the movie didn’t go anywhere surprising and while it was quite well made and gave some insights into the lives of those in detention, it also told the tragic tale of Australia’s resolute refusal to even contemplate sharing our country with anyone coming by boat.

So its no surprise that I’m in favour of doing more – much more. If we can spend $500000.00 annually to keep people in tents on an island then I imagine we can surely use that money to help them become valuable members of our society. The amount of money spent is the exact value we place on not having ‘those people’ in our society.

That said, I’m not an idealist. The movie didn’t address the question of ‘what if everyone came?’ How would we cope with the load? How would we need to change to accomodate the challenges that would go with that? Maybe that’s because those questions are so far removed from the Australian psyche that we can’t even contemplate them. Right now the best we can hope for is a fair(er) go for those poor people locked up indefinitely offshore.

The movie included stories from asylum seekers, stories from Aussies who had worked in detention centres and who could stomach it no longer. It told stories of the families who had seen loved ones head off in search of a better life only to die in the process.

Video of Tehran made me think again of my friend, Stephen, who came from there and was unable to settle in Australia, despite 4 years on a temporary visa, despite getting a job and finding his feet. Along the way he ‘accidentally’ found faith and his life was transformed. Unfortunately this was interpreted as him ‘conveniently’ finding God, while the truth was anything but that. His new faith made his possibility of settlement much harder. About 18 months ago he was arrested, sent back to Villawood and then Darwin, before he eventually gave in and agreed to go back to Iran. We haven’t heard from him since, but we hope he is still alive.

I sensed the most poignant moment was the footage of Vietnamese refugees coming to Australia and being welcomed and settled. I guess we could say that all turned out ok?… We didn’t finish up being overrun, or losing our identity, our jobs, our livelihoods to these new migrants…

At times as I watched I was hoping the movie would end. Some of it was boredom. I have heard it all before. Some of it was simply not wanting to hear more information about a situation I feel helpless to change. I don’t like feeling powerless, or living in a democracy where the current choice is for either party A who will enforce the status quo or party B who will do the same.

But in the end I sensed that maybe I was just there to weep with those who weep. Perhaps the point of tonight wasn’t to spark me to build an extension to take in a new family or to up stumps and work somewhere else among these people.

Perhaps it was just to share in their pain and feel a smidge of their helplessness and to pray for the wisdom to know where that leads.

‘Doing a Tony Abbott’













‘Doing a Tony Abbott’…

I wonder if a phrase of this ilk is going to enter our Christian parlance?

This week Abbott spoke at the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture and announced that the Bible and the ‘golden rule’ was good and all that, but not to be taken too seriously – certainly not to be adhered to if you are likely to put yourself or your country in danger. It makes good sense except when it doesn’t work to your advantage…

His exact words were:

“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ is at the heart of every western polity. It expresses itself in laws protecting workers, in strong social security safety nets, and in the readiness to take in refugees. It’s what makes us decent and humane countries, as well as prosperous ones.

“But right now, this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error,”

“Our moral obligation is to receive people fleeing for their lives. It’s not to provide permanent residency to anyone and everyone who would rather live in a prosperous western country than their own.

“It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense, [and] it will gnaw at our consciences. Yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe, and quite possible changing it forever,”

There’s no doubting his simple take on this is, ‘The Bible says X – X is good – really good even – and it has ‘worked’ – but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is bad’

I’m no Abbott fan and I disagree with him on this policy, but I think we need to exercise a bit of care with our critique because as Christians we’ve done exactly this for years. When we get to a place where we can finish the equation above with ‘but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is still good’ then we will have got the log out.

But while we read the Bible and consciously, knowingly say ‘what the hell – I’ll do what I like anyway’ then we can’t be taken seriously.

If we’re honest we are pretty good at ‘pulling a Tony Abbott’ … but then that honesty doesn’t always come easily…

Just a thought…




Worth a Fight?









Recently my old mate Scott posted this image on his Facebook page and took some heat for it. We had coffee that afternoon and he mentioned to me that he hadn’t seen the words at the top of the image, just the sentiment on the bottom. Maybe he did lose some friends over it. Certainly the comments on his post suggested his views weren’t welcome and a pastor he should know better.








Then just last week another friend posted a link on Facebook to this article with the accompanying disclaimer ‘No I’m not a bigot’. It takes the other point of view and she also copped heat from people who declared her narrow minded.

It seems that whichever side of the debate around gay marriage you sit on, you risk losing friends. You have to face the reality that your point of view on this one issue is going to bring conflict and possibly even the end of a relationship.

What an unbelievably stupid response…

I want to say ‘Really?… Seriously?… You would dismiss me as a friend because on a non essential issue I read the Bible differently to you?’

This is another in a long line of boundary marker issues that seem to be used to decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. In times gone by it was inerrancy, as certain people were demonised and harangued for refusing to subscribe to one particular view of scripture, or perhaps you encountered the same shunning over your views on creation, or women…

These are all issues that can still generate a little heat here in Oz, but let me change your perspective for a minute.

My aunt visited from Ireland a couple of years back and I asked her what was the pressing issue for the church in that part of the world. Do you know what she said?


Yep – hats… HATS!

People are fighting one another over whether they keep their heads covered in church… I was speechless, but managed to utter some completely insincere words of concern.

People are losing friends over hats… 

You probably find that sad and absurd. Bizarre even, but in another part of the world that is still more ‘christianised’ than Australia, this is a serious issue.

In 20 years time when the heat has gone out of this debate around gay marriage you will probably view it like you do creation, or inerrancy or gender. Its not that its a storm in a teacup. Its a real question that needs a thoughtful response. We do need to grapple with these issues as Christians, but we don’t need to lose friendships over them.

That is DUMB!

I get the clear sense we would be far more comfortable with a friend suggesting a non-divine Jesus, or many ways to God, than we would be with someone having a divergent view on gay marriage. We could more easily tolerate a compromise to our core convictions than we could someone holding the ‘wrong’ view on a hot topic.

Time to grow up a bit folks.

And – no – I haven’t presented my own view on this issue on here, because I’m not writing for that purpose. I’m more than happy to tell you what I think, but only if you promise not to ‘de-friend’ me…

If that’s too hard it might be time to get a grip of what Jesus said was really important






The Ongoing Crucifixion of Rob Bell










I read once that when it comes to issues of faith some folks are ‘pioneers’ and others are ‘settlers’. Some will venture out into new territory theologically and practically, while others are better equipped to protect what is established and to work within what is known.

Rob Bell seems to be a pioneer and one who finds life in places where others where find fear. So for this he gets crucified.

He wrote a book about Hell. He questioned traditional teachings and while he didn’t appear to come down on any one view conclusively he allowed for the possibility of something other than eternal conscious damnation and perhaps what was more disturbing he encouraged people to think about the issue.


He stopped leading his megachurch without a concrete plan of ‘what next’ and he now doesn’t ‘attend’ church in the regular manner. Plenty of us have been there and know that this does not mean we have ‘ditched church’. We have just changed expressions.

But because he was such a high profile figure his choice to move away from the conventional has repercussions and he should be punished.

Then he came out in favour of same sex marriage and gay relationships… But we all knew he was going to do that because he had jumped onto the slippery slope and this was where it leads.

It was strike three for Bell, and rather than respect his theological judgement on this, while choosing to hold different views, this became a point of agreement for those hoping for his downfall. (And it seems plenty were hoping for it.) There was now definitely a common enemy to rally against.

And now we hear he is doing business with Ophrah…

He has his own show – on TV – talking about God. Oh dear. Its come to this. If he hadn’t lost his way before, then now he has completely sold out. He’s hopped in bed with the goddess of relativity and has lost his bearings completely.

Or… maybe as a pioneer he is strong enough to enter territory where the settlers feel at sea? Maybe he is able to move into uncharted territory without a map but with a north point to hold him? We value missionaries who go to unreached people groups, so why not a  culturally capable and theologically astute missionary who has gone into territory very few Christians would ever get invited into.

From discussions with missionaries to unreached people groups in other cultures I know they use methods to communicate the gospel that they do not disclose when they come home because your average evangelical wouldn’t understand and it wouldn’t be worth the hassle because then we would marginalise them as well. So maybe Rob Bell is just bold enough to do his thing in full view. Maybe he has nothing to hide?… Maybe we can’t understand what we see, so its easier to kick him out of the tribe than to trust that God might work in a different way thru this gifted individual.

Perhaps its just plain jealousy?

As I listen to Bell speak I don’t hear him ditching Jesus, but nor do I hear him towing the party line. He often speaks in metaphors and images so he doesn’t please the gatekeepers who would prefer he use more familiar and definable language. In his language there is room for people to imagine and to think, and possibly think wrong things. But given that many do not want to think on these issues or listen to the voices of most preachers perhaps he is tilling the ground to speak of Jesus in a compelling way – as he can do – at a later point.

Then again maybe he is just a heretic and we should stone him to death for daring to be famous, successful, engaging and then to change tack – to walk away from the tangible expressions of a faith that is clearly working and to undermine the credibility of his own creation. Because that is hard to explain…

I understand that some people who were fans of Bell in his original more familiar incarnation may feel a little ripped off now. He was once the person who could say so well what many of us struggled to communicate. He had a way with words and media and theology that was uncanny… and now he is no longer saying the things we would like him to.

Maybe we can get off this guy’s back and trust that God can work in him and through him in ways that many of us would not be capable of.

Perhaps… just perhaps Bell has lost his way and drifted unconsciously into territory that is clearly incorrect and blatantly in opposition to the call of Christ. But perhaps rather than a good ole evangelical lynching, maybe this is the time to get alongside him and help him find his way back.

We do love a lynching though don’t we?…












Yesterday in church I felt it important to pick up on the current ‘terror alert’ story that is slowly escalating and generating all sorts of disturbing behaviour around the place.

From a muslim woman thrown off a moving train in Melbourne, to a young girl named Isis who now is in a quandry as to ‘who she is’, to a business named ISIS who now advising staff not to come to work with their uniforms on and are considering re-branding. All of these are outcomes of a media voice that is telling us we need to be afraid and that our freedom and way of life is in danger.

The conclusion we get to led to as a result of the fighting in Iraq is that ISIS are Muslims, therefore Muslims are the enemy. For people who don’t think its a simple equation and the problem is that many don’t think…

So despite the messages from our politicians that tell us to remain calm and treat muslims fairly and kindly there is an equally virulent message that calls us to be careful, to be cautious and to look out.

Leunig summed it up well in this cartoon.



All the ingredients are there to create the kind of chaos we now see around us. So how does a church respond? How do we as the people of God respond every day in the regular rhythms of life.

If offered 4 thoughts yesterday:

1. Pray – I get the sense that ‘our battle is not against flesh and blood’ and it won’t be won by killing more people. I’m pragmatic enough to believe we need to take action to stop ISIS forward movement, but minimum force would be the answer rather than blowing them (and innocent bystanders) off the planet. Prayer also focuses our energies on the things God seeks – his kingdom – his righteousness – peace, rather than on the festering fears that perhaps our muslim neighbours might be terrorists undercover. Now is the time to pray for the muslims in our community that they will be safe and not become innocent victims of a fight that is not theirs, and to pray for the folks stranded in Iraq who have nowhere to run to (especially not Australia…)


2. Love – Dave Andrews wrote a piece about this and I think he’s on the money. Now is not the time to be neutral – to stand back – but it is the time to show love and concern and to offer our help to those who must now live in fear of being victimised. For those who are cautious I don’t believe this equates to agreement with the tenets of Islam, nor is it bowing to ISIS. It is believing that we do not overcome evil with evil, but rather we overcome with good. Try it. Speak to a muslim person and show concern. Smile at them… There… not that hard…

3. Think – I suggested yesterday that we treat the news as reality TV – a story being developed with some element of truth, but only enough to keep people watching. Let’s not believe everything we hear. Let’s be sure to check our sources and think before we forward that email speaking of the ‘slaughter of Christians by Muslims’… Consider what message this sends – even inadvertently, especially when it gets sent on another 5000 times. Check snopes before believing any emails and think twice before accepting anything you hear on the news. Just the other day I stumbled on a documentary about SOFEX – the special operation forces expo held in Jordan where the latest and greatest in military hardware is on display to those who will buy it and use it. And with the USA the biggest producer of this stuff it makes you question how viable this massive multi billion dollar industry is if there are now wars in which to use it. It makes you think doesn’t it?…

4. Radicalise – I read an article in the paper on the weekend about the process of radicalisation and how it happens among muslim youth. And as I was reading I began reflecting on that old oxymoron ‘radical Christianity’ (because it implies that there is such a thing as moderate or recreational Christianity). If we can choose to live our own lives surrendered to Jesus and the things that shape the kingdom then we must surely stand apart from our society in the way we love and seek the wellbeing of others. We will be a radicalised, prophetic (and annoying) voice to both the church and the society. Inevitably we will evoke anger, but a genuine expression of faith lived out in society will result in a concern for the other whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Bahai or Presbyterian… I believe one of our key roles as Christian leaders is to keep disturbing our people with the message of the kingdom and to keep questioning our own lives as do that. Authentic Christianity is radical by definition, but we continually need to radicalise ourselves and our churches where we so easily settle for middle class values with a sprinkling of Jesus.

At the end of the day there are significant theological differences between Muslims and Christians and we don’t need to downplay this. We aren’t varieties of the same plant. We are different, and the core difference is in who we believe Jesus to be. But that doesn’t mean they are the enemy… It doesn’t mean we need to be afraid. I liked John Dickson’s recent ‘letter to his church‘ as a way of seeing the issue.

And just while we’re at it, now is not the time to be figuring out the burka issue or to be banging on about Halal. I believe these are valid debates to have and the degree to which Islamic culture is able to permeate our society is a question we need to resolve. If we are genuinely a secular democratic society and Muslims have come to be part of that because their own system sucked, then they are welcome to have a voice and to participate in the process like everyone else. But for now we don’t need to take action that is unnecessarily hostile and provocative.

Fear, Terror and a Bloke With a Pie


Its in the air… everywhere…

And its destructive. Evil even. Seriously…

Last night on our local community Facebook site a woman posted a disturbing message about how the previous evening she had felt like someone was watching her in her home and how she didn’t sleep well. The next day at Woolies a man walked close to her and appeared to be watching her and her children as well. He followed her out to the bakery and stood behind her… At that moment she had an apparition of a dead relative walk down the mall towards her and she took this as a warning that she was in danger from this man…The man bought a pie sat down and ate it, but she ‘knew’ he was watching her…

You don’t come across too many posts quite so paranoid, neurotic and nonsensical as that one, but what was even more disturbing were the responses that followed.

‘We’re not safe anywhere these days…’

‘Oh dear Hun so glad you’re safe…’

‘Take care – our little community isn’t what it used it to be’

‘Report it to the police’

My favourite was from the bloke who commented: ‘Maybe the bloke was doing his grocery shopping, was hungry and felt like a pie.’

Because that is in all likelihood the reality of the situation. A bloke walked around the supermarket on the same day as you, happened to leave at the same time and stood in line at the bakery. That you see his behaviour as suspicious likely communicates much more about you than about him. That you ‘felt’ someone watching you the previous evening and were ‘warned’ by a dead relative doesn’t add to the credibility of your story.

So now its not just the guy giving your kids a push on the swings that we need to be concerned about, but its anyone who happens to be near you on a day when your paranoia is in overdrive?

But this is what we can expect while our media continues to narrate world events in the way it does. Fear and depravity is more likely to draw more viewers than good news and the ‘national security’ story is yet to reach a climax.  Its a great story for drawing a crowd, but the escalation in the current ‘terror alert’ is inevitably going to spin off in all sorts of fear around the place.

When we tell a story of fear we will create a sense of fear. When we tell many stories of fear we can expect to create a culture of fear. So last night’s Facebook post is an expected outcome in this world we now live.

As I listen to the news and the stories that get told I find myself concerned at two levels. The first is for what is happening in the world as Muslim extremists terrorise innocent people. This is a real concern and I fully understand the anger this generates. It is barbaric and nonsensical and needs opposing.

The second is for the authenticity and tone of what is reported. Propaganda is endemic when nations are at war because we need to demonise the enemy (otherwise its harder to kill them). But the narrative around terror seems to be escalating in tone and the language is becoming less peace-focused and much more of the view that we have no alternative, but to fight.

The ‘war on terror’ motif is loud and clear and the need to ‘be vigilant’ is equally loud and clear. But what’s ironic is that if anything were going to spawn even more terrorists then its the kind of rhetoric being generated.

Its also the way to spread fear and legitimise our own innate prejudices.

So don’t be surprised if someone in the shops happens to grab their children, turn and run from you next time you stop and thoughtfully ponder which brand of toothpaste to buy. That moment of contemplation could be the difference between life and death for those standing nearby.

Backyardmissionary is a Driscoll Free Zone

I don’t know Mark Driscoll and have never had anything to do with him, but lately my Facebook news feed has been buzzing with people’s assessments of his failures in ministry and the possible out-workings of it all.

I confess I have read many of these out of curiosity, but honestly I feel pretty dirty afterwards. I think the feeling is a reminder that I have nothing to contribute other than my voyeurism and while it may be entertaining and somewhat smugly satisfying to watch a high profile, heavy hitter take a fall, it is hardly worthy of the time that is currently being spent analysing and critiquing. It could even be wrong…

So while I understand (and support) the arguments for transparency and accountability and how in the absence of social media Driscoll may never have been ‘outed’ and challenged, I am not seeing a campaign to ‘stop the hurt’ and ‘get Driscoll help’, but rather just a whole heap of angry tirades that aren’t helping anyone.

So – you won’t read anything here. Not because I don’t think its a juicy, salacious issue and the demise of a celebrity pastor isn’t interesting to speculate about, but just because it has been making me ill. And I don’t mean the issue so much as the way it has lured so many into unhelpful and destructive criticism.

And I should probably stop there.


1_19ihv67-19ihv69I’ve been following the unfolding drama of Flight MH370 as it has happened over the last two weeks – a massive tragedy for those with loved ones on board – but at this point I find myself wondering how much more money will be invested in searching for the dead?

I began thinking this a few days after it had disappeared. The prognosis was that it was unlikely for the plane to be found with people alive on it, but as the search has gone on and taken on epic proportions I have become disturbed at how much of our resources have gone into finding ‘dead people’ while millions who are still alive go hungry etc.

Its an ongoing conundrum – I get that – but maybe its past time to say ‘tragic/sad/devastating’ but from here on the money that would have gone into locating the dead will be rerouted into helping those who are close to death, but still have hope.

So maybe that’s not a popular thought, but if I think we sometimes lose perspective.



Flat Beer or Stale Bread?







With an election looming these feel like the choices.

It was my first Sunday back teaching at QBC after our break, so I thought I’d launch back in gently… and pick up the topic of ‘how to vote in the coming election’.

As much as some like to avoid mixing their faith and politics I think Ghandi was right when he said: ‘He who says politics and religion do not mix understands neither one.’ We simply cannot be ‘apolitical’ (if there is such a word) in our discipleship. To follow Jesus has political implications and the current hot button of asylum seekers and border protection is a case in point.

So come September 7th we will all vote, but some of us will do it after having moved thru a conscious process while others will simply respond to sound bytes, propaganda and gossip. The question I posed to our crew today was ‘how do you know who to vote for?’

I began by letting people know that Danelle and I are swingers. We have been for a long time and while that might sound odd, we are at ease with it. Of course I’m talking about being swinging voters… That’s what you thought I meant right?…

In the last 30 years I have voted CDP, Liberal, Labour and more recently Green, but I have no allegiance to anyone. Which makes it interesting each time an election comes around. While I have no allegiance I do have a process for arriving at a decision and it is a fairly simple one.

Here it is for what its worth (and this was the guts of what I shared at QBC this morning)

How do we develop a framework for casting a vote that will reflect the priorities of Jesus?

I want to suggest that there is one primary theological lens thru which we can look to assess the merits of the different political parties – and I say ‘parties’ because we are not voting for ‘Rudd’ or ‘Abbott’. These men are not dictators or tyrants – they are subject to the ethos of their own party. So if you don’t like either of them then discard the idea that you are voting for them per se.

That lens I believe we need to look thru if we are vote according to the priorities of Jesus is the lens of the Kingdom of God. The Bible wasn’t written with 21st century western democracy in mind.  Nor was it written for first century imperialism. None of these human forms of government are to be seen as what God ultimately hopes for. They are our best attempts to keep a world in order and keep a society healthy and functioning.

What God had in mind right from the get go in Genesis was a world where he and his creation would live in harmony and where there would be goodness, peace, justice and love. It was the world he originally created. It is the world we – as the church – are seeking to work with him to create at this time. It is the world to come when he restores this world.

It is the kingdom of God. The world where God’s rule is seen and experienced most clearly and powerfully.

So my sole criteria when seeking to decide who I will vote for is to ask ‘whose policies and priorities best depict the kingdom of God?’ Who, if they got in power and were able to get it all own their own way – is likely to move us close to God’s dream for the world?

And what’s interesting is that Godly people can come down in different places on who they see as best moving us in that direction.

But to be able to make that kind of a call you need to be able to both have a grasp of the Bible and also a grasp of what the major political parties are on about. So you do need to do some reading and some thinking.

I think this is where most of us come unstuck. We get sound bytes and propaganda from the various spin doctors but often we don’t take the time to visit the various websites and see who is saying what.

And you need to. Its all there.

So if it’s the kingdom of God as the primary lens thru which we make a decision then we need to know what that means.

If we are envisaging a world formed by God’s rule then we will ask questions like:

  • who best looks after the poor and needy both here and around the world?
  • who will best work to develop a righteous and moral society?
  • who is truthful and honourable in the way they lead?
  • who best calls us and envisions a way to look after the created world?
  • who will best uphold the values of a just and fair society and foster healthy relationships between people?
  •  who will promote strong family as core to the health of a society
  • who will see human rights as a central issue
  • who will protect the rights of the powerless
  •  who will seek peace and healing as ways of resolving conflict and who will avoid war and bloodshed?

And yes – these are complex issues

And there are obviously more, but as you consider the characteristics of the kingdom as described in scripture you can then filter each parties ideas thru that grid.

And the caveat here is that just because a party has Christian in its name, it doesn’t means it is better at envisioning the kingdom of God than those who don’t. Currently neither of the overtly Christian parties take a welcoming / compassionate approach to asylum seekers and for those of us who see this as a significant issue its something of an embarrassment and a puzzle.

So that is the backdrop against which my vote gets cast. Who best envisions a world that looks like what Jesus hopes for?

And the challenge is that many people will prioritise economic development and personal advancement over and above these issues. Because that is in our nature… and because that is in our nature and politicians want to win, they will generally shape their policies to suit our desires.

Its not to say a healthy economy doesn’t matter, so don’t hear me say that – because obviously a country with poor economic health is going to struggle, but I can’t imagine Jesus ever having that as his primary concern – person wealth and societal affluence….

Obviously the hot topic in Aussie politics at the moment is border protection and the treatment of refugees. And both of our major political parties have taken a very hard line on this – which tells you where the bulk of Aussie are at with it. It is an election winner and whoever takes a softer line will not win. And you need to win… even Christians ‘need to win’ apparently…

So – the overarching question is not who can best sustain a western democracy, or who can best effect economic growth, but who can best help us move in the direction of what looks something like the kingdom of God?  (even if they don’t realise they are doing it)

I would suggest to you that this is the core question we need to grapple with each time an election comes around.

And I realise it’s a big question, but I tend to see it as the only question.

The second issue I want to focus on relates to how we determine our vote – an actual process. Because I am guessing many people will feel overwhelmed with the challenge of thinking it thru.

So the next challenge – in how to vote is to put in the effort to make a decision

Think of it as – pray / read / discuss  / pray  / read / discuss / vote

Don’t simply vote in line with family tradition, don’t look for someone with ‘Christian’ in their name and hope they get it right. Don’t simply vote from self interest looking at who will put the most money back in your own pocket. That is not a responsible way to vote. It is selfish. But we do it – see here for the election issues for West Aussies

Choose carefully and be prepared to join the swingers!

Australian theologian John Dickson says:

“Christians should be willing to change voting patterns after Christian reflection on particular policies. A believer who cannot imagine voting for the ”other side” has either determined that only one party aligns with the will of God or, more likely, is more attached to their cultural context than to the wisdom of scripture.”

Its too easy to determine out theology by looking thru the lens of our political ideology, rather than the other way round.

Dickson says we need to avoid polarising arguments and think critically about both our favoured party and the ones we see as less appealing if we are to make a healthy decision. You should be able to find holes in each party’s policies because none of them are perfect. If you can’t then you aren’t looking hard enough.

He has some excellent thoughts here on how to vote as a Christian.

I know that this election I will vote for a party who are ‘for’ some things that I cannot agree with. That is how it rolls…

So will you…

So in that process of pray / read / discuss / pray / read / discuss I am suggesting we:

a) take this seriously and to ask God for guidance in prayer.

b) Then read – firstly scripture – and ask ‘how does the Bible enlighten me on this issue?’ Begin with the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 and ask who it best describes. But try and reflect on the whole tenor of the Bible and see who emerges.

Then read the websites of the various parties you know are core – read the Libs, Labour, Greens and Christian parties. For fun you can read the Pirate party… the HEMP party and the Sex Party…

c) Then discuss it with friends. Ask one another who you’re going to vote for… And why… Let’s get beyond seeing discussion of politics as taboo. The purpose is not to debate and argue but to understand and respect that different people who love Jesus will vote for different parties at different times.

I know some churches have a party line – there was an article last week in the West about a church’s links with the liberal party and their overt promotion of them as their preferred choice. My mate attends a church that got a very strong message from the Australian Christians about why they should vote for them – and as a church were obviously nailing their colours to the mast.

I am not up for giving my support to any one group because all of them are good in their own way and flawed in their own way. And as a church I believe we are healthier for diversity than for having a party line. My ideal scenario would be to have someone who is going to vote for each of the major parties take some time on a Sunday to give us their reasons for their choice and then allow debate and questioning – kinda like our very own Q&A.

That way we get to really hear the strong and weak aspects of each group. But we won’t be having any one party take the floor to do their thing.

My take is that no one is committed to the kingdom of God as we would hope, (And I don’t think we are as committed to the kingdom of God as we would hope either…)  but that each in their own way are seeking to build a better society.

So while it might feel like a choice between stale bread and flat beer I am hopeful that we can be inspired a bit beyond that…

I haven’t made up mind yet as to who will get my vote. Last time I voted Green, as I felt their justice and environmental policies led us in a kingdom direction, even if I disagreed with their stance on some of the moral issues.  I know this choice had some people question my integrity as a Christian leader. I’m ok with that, as I knew it would happen, but I was disappointed when Bob Brown came out swinging for gay marriage as his first priority.

This time I am puzzled. The asylum seeker question is a significant justice issue and I had hoped Kev would be as good as his word and the do the right thing here, but clearly too many votes are at stake. He has really caved in. Clearly Abbott has no time for them, but at least he has been up front from the get go. The CDP and Australian Christians probably need to have another read of the Bible quite frankly, while the Greens are much more open and compassionate.

Anyway, my hope is that as a Christian community we will take the time, make the effort and use our brains to reach a sensible vote, given that no choice is perfect.