Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Ch 5)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

Some general criticisms
The continuing debate about church-state relations has endured many unhelpful contributors and suffered many unproductive contributions, especially from Christians. Their number includes those who want to promote fidelity to Australian’s “Christian heritage” wand those determined to “take back” the nation for Christ. Most have no knowledge of constitutional law. Few have any familiarity with the long-running and complex theological debates surrounding the nexus between religion and politics. They are simply motivated by fear that their children will be influenced by secular humanists or drawn to another religion and a desire to share with non-believers the benefits of Christianity – whether they are wanted or not. Although well-meaning, they find it hard to believe that anyone could find them patronising and misguided. p 88.

Christianity no longer privileged or special in Australia
Within the space of several decades, the church has moved from nearer the centre of public life to the periphery. It has lost ground. Christians no longer enjoy political, social, or moral ascendency. Many clergy feel besieged or ignored. Whereas previously the church’s position meant a great deal in national affairs and Christian thinkers were accorded prime place in the public square, Christians can no longer presume they will even be heard, let alone heeded, in an increasingly indifferent and hostile society. Christian’s are one among many “special interest” groups vying for influence and the crowd’s ear. For many in the church, it is now about winning a war of survival. And yet, many of the supposed tensions are more imagined than real as Christians fight battles hat need not be fought, using resources more profitably deployed elsewhere. In contemporary Australia Christians have considerable scope to live their lives as they choose, free from state regulation or legal hindrance… The state does not prevent them from creating discrete local communities in which the peculiarities of the Christian faith are upheld. p 91.

Conclusions – some good news.
Christianity does not need political goodwill or financial support to survive or fulfil its mission. Influence and agency are the preferred modes of Christian interaction with the world. p 93.

There is no future prospect of a religious establishment in Australia and none should be encouraged. p 94.

The nature of these [future church and state] interactions will be contested from time to time. Such a situation is to be expected in an open and democratic society which values the free flow and exchange of ideas and opinions. But if some of the present unhelpful tensions are to be eased, Christians must take the initiative in reducing suspicion by declaring their support for religious diversity, acknowledging the separation of church and state implied in the Constitution, and their willingness to use spiritual and pastoral rather than political and polemical means to achieve their objectives. This country might have a “Christian heritage” but it is no one’s interests fro those who do not share Christian beliefs to be subjected to discrimination, repression or coercion. p 94-5.

The absence of any wall [of separation between church and state] points to the sophistication of Australia’s public life and the quality of its democracy. It also reflects a commitment to the shared values and common aspirations that are just as important to those with religious beliefs as to those with none.  p 95.

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Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Ch 4)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

A Particular Cluster of Beliefs
Frame argues that those who want a closer relationship between church and state feel:
1) Believes Australia was and is a Christian nation, and thus its values need be delf-preserved.
2) Assumes that interactions between church and the state are never neutral or benign and presumes a clash of ideologies.
3) Christians are afraid that they might find themselves resident in a country that acknowledges other religions and might, in time, be dominated by a religion that is not reticent about creating a theocratic state.
4) They want to uphold God’s will in public policy; they want Australia to be a safe place for the church in which its security, privilege domination and hegemony can be preserved. Others dislike the influence of secularism on their children, community life and popular culture, and want the authority and aerates of the state to promote Christian values and curb the influence of secularism and its alleged attendant evils. p68-69.

Quoting Stanley Hauerwas:
Rejects Constantinianism because it “attempted through force of the stat to make the world into the kingdom God, which attempted to make the worship of God unavoidable, which attempted to make to make Christian convictions available to all without conversion or transformation.
The loss of political influence is as a necessary precondition for the recovery of authentic Christian social and political life: “I am not asking the church to withdraw, but rather to give up the presumption of Constantinianism power, particularly when those take the for of liberal universalism. p 72-73.

State of the Australian Church
In many places the emphasis has been on the quantity of believers rather than the quality of their belief.

Since the 1970’s, Frame argues, the situation has changed in two ways:
1) As church-going declined, pronouncements of religious leaders no longer received the close attention they once did. Australia was a more diverse and cosmopolitan society with many ore voices vying for an audience in the public square. It was not that church leaders were ignored; it was simply harder for them to be heard.
–> 
thus the rise of the Christian political party o those trying to gain more volume in the public square.
Family First party – based on Christina teaching but expressed in secular language. The rise of Christian political parties is a concern within the church excuse they cannot reasonably claim to represent all Christians. In my view they face a number of serious theological and ecclesiological objections… How should they respond to allegations that they have compromised core religious convictions when they agree to drop opposition to one aspect of public policy that might often Christian sensibilities in order to secure the party’s objectives in another?

Christian political parties also weaken the church’s capacity to act as a distinct and exemplary community, and turn the church in a political ghetto ignored by parties unable to secure the so-called “Christian” vote.

[Christian political parties whether overt or covert] are both misguided attempts at regaining political influence and do not ultimately serve the purpose for which they were created.

2) Less problematic approach has been embraced by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL). The ACL seeks to influence the policy platfroms of major political parties and to maximise the potency of the “Christian vote.” It encourages supporters to join a political party and to help support Christian values in that forum.” –> ACL’s executive are precluded from holding party political membership. p 73-75.

General conclusions on Party approach
In my judgement there are obvious list to what political programs can achieve in any domain of human activity and it is doubtful whether they have much influence on changing the focus of the human heart and the orientation of human will that is at the core of religious life. In any event, does the state have a capacity for moral conduct? 

Supporters of the first perspective believe that the state has a moral capacity and expect it to act in a morally responsible manner… Unlike individuals, states are not accountable to an external authority (other than perhaps God), although it may be said they are accountable to…the people. … States are expected to be moral but their behaviour confirms to a different moral code. … The moral demands imposed on the state are different from the placed on an individual. p 76-77.

The responsibility of a political leader is to the well-being of his people, not to purity of his own soul, and the two do not always necessarily coincide. p 78.

They are also constrained by law, politics and budget. From my observations. churches are overly optimistic about what politicians and public administration can achieve and unrealistic about hat the state does accomplish through public programmes. For most people, in most instances, the purpose of their life is discerned within the family. Meaning is found within the home.. It is this domestic discourse that churches and concerned Christians ought to influence rather than adopting postures in debates encouraged by the media or hosted by parliamentary committees. p 78.

Quoting Michael Hogan:
They want their own religious rights and privileges protected but they oppose laws which will extend similar rights and privileges to others. They wish to prevent anyone discriminating against them or their institutions, yet they ant to be free to discriminate against others… Fundamentally, the Church wants the state to enforce Christian morality … or at least not to undermine it by giving legitimacy to alternative moralities.

[Christians] should not resort to law to either propagate their beliefs or enforce their customs… Hogan is, however, correct to highlight the church’s general preoccupation with its rights and freedoms ahead of acknowledging its obligations and responsibilities. p 80.

Quoting  Dr Andrew Cameron:
A final separation between Christians and the political process can only occur if Christians are rooted out, their literature destroyed and they are killed or expelled… Doctrinaire secularism is either naive or tyrannical. My advice to [doctrinaire secularists] is to stop wasting emotioanl energy over the fact [of Christian political involvement]… we will keep stating our account of what brings peace, and if we can’t do it publicly, we will do it subversively. p 87.

 

Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Ch 3)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

s116 of the Constitution

Quoting Latham CJ, Jehovah’s Witness Case 1943. 
It served “not only to protect the freedom of religion, but also to protect the right of man to have no religion” and covered “act done in pursuance of religious belief as a part of religion” as well as opinions… the key concern for Chief Justice Latham was whether the interference  was excessive or “undue.”

The Commonwealth and to demonstrate that an infringement of this freedom was “reasonably necessary”. In effect, the court was attempting to balance competing rights and responsibilities.

Quoting the DOGS (Defence of Government Schools) Case:
Argument highlighted the significant differences between the US First Amendment and section 116 and the widely held but mistaken belief that the Australian constitution provided a “wall of separation.” p 54.

As the High Court would show, isolating the church and the state form each other was certainly not the intention of those who had drafted the Australian Constitution. p 55.

Justice Stephen: He thought that in any event, the drafters of the Australian Constitution were doing “no ore” that providing a prohibition against two things: the setting up of a national church and the favouring of one church over another.”

Conclusions

… it is the declining political influence that has led to some Christians becoming more and more active and organised in the public square.

Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Ch 2)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

Frame on Hobbes
Because God did not give one person authority to compel others in respect of when and how they should worship, government had no power to demand religious compliance of any kind. Furthermore, he shared Hobbe’s view that compulsion was inconsistent with the nature of faith and would not guarantee salvation:
“Whatsoever is not done with the assurance of faith, is neither welling itself, not can it be acceptable to God. To impose such things, therefore, upon any people, contrary to their own judgement, is, in effect, to common them to offend God.” p 36.

In this context, why should religion be given any political credibility or the churches receive any civil privilege? p 36-7.

Remaining separate for the church’s good. 

Quoting Father Neville Figgis, 1913 – what concerned him:
“was not so much whether or not a religious body be in a technical sense established, but whether or not it be conceived as possessing any living power of self-development, or whether it be conceived as a creation of the State… In other words, is the life of society to be conceived as inherent or derived? Does the Church exist by some inward living force, with powers of self-development like a person; or is she amore aggregate, a fortuitous concourse of convenience, but with no real claim to a mind or a will of her own, except so far as the civil power sees good to invest here for the nonce with a fiction of unity.” p 45.

The battle of the twentieth century was, he argued, “the battle of small societies to maintain their inherent life as against the devouring Leviathan of the whole”. p 45.

Quoting Ralph Inge:
I do not think that the political power of the Church is often used for purely religious and moral ends… it is notorious that political Christianity excited bitter hatred against the Church, such as is almost unknown in countries were there is no such organisation… The choice for the Church is between political power and moral influence. p 46.

Rather than Christianity being a religion that championed individual liberty and promoted personal discretion, the church has consistently imposed restraints and demanded compliance. The French theological Jacques Ellul lamented that “whenever the Church hs been in a position of power, it has regarded freedom as an enemy.”
Although power is seductive and many organisations lose sight of their origins and objectives in an effort to retain power, the church is called to resist the allure of power for the sake of its message, which is most clearly proclaimed for a position of powerlessness. p 47.

…when the church has gained authority and power to order temporal things and compel earthly obedience. It has exchanged conviction for compulsion, made mandatory what needed to be voluntary if virtue were to flourish, created monolithic societies deprived of the blessings of diversity, and attempted cultural unity for the sake of bureaucratic control. p 47.

Whereas authentic Christianity accepts that human society is enriched by variety and acknowledges that people will live and think differently, a church with totalitarian tendencies overlook the possibilities inherent in diversity and strives to achieve not unity, but uniformity and compliance. p 47.

 

 

 

Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (Introduction and Ch 1)

Tom Frame; University of New South Wales, 2006. 

The following is the product of research being conducted for a paper regarding the Christian role in politics. 

Tom Frame is the Anglican Bishop for the Australian Defence Force. The following is part of a book that looks at the working relationship and tensions between Church and State in Australia. This book is a part of a series that explore, social, political and cultural issues in association with Australian Policy Online.

Introduction

I would say many within the church do not understand the questions, appreciate the character of the debate grasp the attendant theological complexities, acknowledge the lessons of church history, display sufficiently humility about the church’s shortcomings, concede a lack of consensus among Christians, understand the nature of political discourse of value the integrity of the state in this country. p 10.

Too many Christians want the Church to exceed what I believe is its divine mandate by means that are likely to compromise its mission and distort its character. The church is meant to be, after all, an earthly manifestation of a heavenly reality. In my view, some denominations and individuals are in real danger of fusing religion and politics, and of failing to maintain the necessary distance between church and state that is needed for their healthy interaction. p 10.

There are too many denominations in Australia for one to achieve primacy. p 10.

Feeling that Australia is abandoning its “Christian heritage,” a broad coalition of Christian groups is committed to opposing “secularism” wherever they believe it is gaining ground… At times unthinking opposition to secularism has prompted overtly political behaviour and has, in my view, diminished the possibility of the Christian message being heard with respect to some of those things which the church, and only the church, can offer this world. Put simply: the church has more at stake and, therefore, much more to lose than the state. p 11.

Chapter 1: No Wall, One People

Jesus appeared to have been largely indifferent to Roman rule. While conscious of its oppressive spirit and sacrilegious character, he did not openly challenge Roman political authority or military power. He also seemed to have acknowledged the existence of distinct and separate realms of jurisdiction.
Quotes Matthew 22:21. p 15.

The essence of Jesus’ teaching – and the reason he wastanxious to avoid any confusion about its character – was the proclamation of the coming “kingdom of God”. It would take root in the human heart, re-orientate the lives and transform the world. He told his disciples: “you are in the world but not of it.” They were instructed to remain unstained by “the world” – those things that lay outside God’s sovereignty – and dependence on government power for the inauguration or survival of the Kingdom of God. p 16.

They [the church] whereat be concerned about the whole creation; dedicated to maintaining unity wherever the followers of Jesus were found; anxious for the welfare of other believes; and mindful of the small but nonetheless significant part they were to play in God’s unfolding plan of redemption for the whole world. Thud, there to be interested in every person and every person which had not (my emphasis) been transformed into Christ’s likeness or brought into conformity with the will of God. Consequently, the church was to be active in the world on God;s behalf, working to reconcile individuals and communities. But there is nothing in St Paul’s writings which could have been construed a a political manifesto nor was there any encouragement to seize control of civil authority. p 17.

Because they were, in any event, powerless to influence Roman institutions or cutoms directly, they allies their principal energies to attracting new converts and deepening their faith. But remaining faithful to Jesus’ teachings while reaching out to a potentially hostile world did not create two separate spheres to life with one designated religious and the other profane… Paul had already denied such a distinction by calling on Christians to demonstrate and commend their faith in everyday life. p 17.

Those with civic authority were appointed by God and given coercive power to promote order and prevent chaos (Romans 13:1-2). Therefore, everyone was subject to their decrees and directions. Obedience was a non-negotiable duty.

cf. Peter – was resolute in his defiance: “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If temporal authorities acted contrary to the laws of God, Christians were implored to point out the binding character of these laws and then to insist that even rulers are subject to them. p 18.

Any sense of separation ended with the conversion of the Emperor Constantine. This remains one of the most far-reaching events in Christian history. Within the period of one human generation, the church could exchange persecution and oppression of imperial patronage and support. It was a proposition too good to refuse. p 20.

Theology had apparently conquered politics. Although the prior separation of church and stat was based on theological principles, the church’s alliance with the emperor was largely a pragmatic decision. There was a widely held view that if the church did not develop into a great political corporation it would perish at the hands of the encroaching barbarians. It seemed no further justification of the imperial political association was required. p 21.
–> fear driven

Quoting Bohemian reformer Peter Chelcicky:
By means of the secular power Antichrist has pulled all power to himself under cover of the Christian faith. Since we believe that it was meekness and humility unto the cross that Christ delivered us from the power of Satan therefore we cannot allow that the perfecting of our faith comes by worldly power as through force were a greater benefit than is faith. When Emperor Constantine in his heathen mode of existence was taken up into the Church by Pope Sylvester and the later was fitted by the former with external rule – the destruction of the Church was inevitable. p 22.

Reformation… The spiritual and temporal power of the church was in marked decline. [The reformation]… created new distinctions within Christendom that tended to reflect emerging patriotic and financial interests. p 23.

The Church of England
The protection and preservation of an established church encouraged self-righteousness and intolerance- as was demonstrated before and after the English Civil War (1642-48). p 24.

When states insisted on all their citizens adhering to one religion (meaning one denominational tradition) and demanded that hey embrace a religious establishment, internal discord and external hostility soon followed. If there was to be only one faith, it was not surprising that individuals and communities were prepared to kill to ensure it was, by their reckoning, the “true” faith. From the mid-1500’s, Europe was divided by warring religious confessions, which continued for more than a century. Religion and nationalism proved to be a volatile combination. p 25.

From the foregoing survey [history of church and state relations] it is apparent that there is no definitive theological position on the church’s relationship with the state in any Christian tradition despite centuries of near constant deliberation. p30.

The Bible provides an encouragement towards forming a community but foes not offer a blueprint for the temporal character of that community or define its moral identity in precise ways, especially in the matter of interacting with secular authority. The most that can be said biblically is the state is simply the means to an end in the divine ordering of the world.p 31.

It can be said with some certainty, however, that there is nothing in the Bible or in Christian history which justifies or encourages the fusion of church and state. It harms religion and distorts the church. p 31.