Justice: A foreboding word

I have recently been reading the book, The Good News About Injustice, written by International Justice Missions (IJM) founder, Gary Haugen. Gary is really popular for his TEDTalk about violence, especially in a development context. IJM was started on the premise that although there was a lot of work being done to alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living in many developing countries, there was nothing being done about the injustices that would torment these communities. There was nothing being done to shut down local drug cartels, or child prostitution rings, or saving children from torturous labour. The authorities in such places cannot be trusted as they are often major stakeholders or friendly with those who run such enterprises. Needless to say, the work that IJM does and Gary’s vision is an incredible inspiration – and this book boldly declares the biblical mandate IJM believe their work is based on.

It is funny that, in my experience, there does seem to be an inexplicable division or taboo-like nature to using the phrase ‘social justice’ within certain Christian circles. Especially in a country, such as Australia, where Christians seem to have become incredibly comfortable at being able to publicly announce how they feel on issues such as abortion, or marriage before sex, same-sex marriage – issues that could be classified as pertaining to ‘personal morality’. The picture I am trying to create is not that Christians disagree with all issues that the contemporary ‘social justice’ banner now encompasses – rather, they just do not like using ‘social justice’ language, or perhaps are apprehensive about it as it is being used by so many other causes that have not been endorsed by their church, or Christian political groups. Further, in recent times, causes that fly the flag of ‘social justice’ appear to be movements antagonistic to the church, arguably, at fundamental levels.

This is somewhat saddening. It is incredibly important for Christians to understand the language of ‘justice’ and how it affects the mission of the Church. Do not misunderstand – issues of personal morality are incredibly important. However, we must remember issues of social justice are just as important. For example, we have come to our views on pro-life through solid theological interpretation – there is no express term in the Bible that prohibits abortion. However, the Bible is so full of references to the Lord as a God of justice, who loves justice – one only has to read the Old Testament prophets to see that they are bursting with this God of Justice. Furthermore, is God not a God of both righteousness and justice? Even the Hebrew word for justice, mishpat, denotes both justice and righteousness. You cannot have one without the other.

Admittedly, the New Testament does not read in the same manner. However, God was the same as he is today, and always will be. Most importantly, Jesus exemplified God’s perfect justice in his ministry. Jesus claimed that he came to fulfil the Law – which was there to show the minimum standard of righteousness and just living. But Jesus had come, not just as an answer to prophecy, but as a living breathing example of God’s will. Law not of stone, but of flesh.

At this point, I am unsure of the history that has led to such an apprehension towards talks of ‘justice’ in parts of the church. Perhaps it was a reaction to love-less preaching of judgement and damnation. But digging deeper into God’s justice shows it is one inspired by love and compassion. Perhaps it is because once one accepts God as a God of justice, they have to realise a world of injustice, which is often quite an overwhelming experience. But God and the Bible also offer great joy and promise to defeat injustice, so we must take heart and overcome our paralysis. I hope to be able to explore these concepts further. But whatever the reason, it remains important that this generation becomes interested in ‘justice’. The public sphere in Western Democracies is no longer going to be a comfortable place for Christian rhetoric. And so be it. If it means exploring a part of God’s character with a little more intention; if it means seeking Jesus and emodying his love with a little more zeal – so be it.

This space will be a place where I will try to unravel the circular conversations that happen in my head in regards to ‘justice’. I am convinced that, as Christians, we are not particularly good at having these conversations – and that just does not add up when we remember we have been equipped with a mandate to serve all people the way that Jesus did – which includes embodying God’s justice. You will hear more from Gary Haugen and other excellent thinkers who are helping me on this journey, including a few prophets, apostles, and more than likely, Jesus as well (probably important to include him).

It is my hope, simply, to start (or rather, get my head around) the dialogue. Because I definitely do not have the answers. I acknowledge that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – but I will endeavour to talk about it in an accessible, honest, spirit and truth filled way. In our musings– whether with others, by ourselves, or with our computer screens as we write our two cents on these subjects—may we always edify the church and exalt God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Welcome to my journey with Justice.


The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse – Ch. 1 “The Way We Talk Now”

Steven D. Smith, 2010

A commitment to reason

But why would someone agree to bracket her most fundamental convictions about what is true in “reasoning” about important public matters? She would do this, Rawls explains, if and because she is “reasonable”– meaning that in a situation of pluralism she understands that no one’s truth is going to prevail over its rivals, and so rather than seeking to ground public decisions in truth she is “ready to propose principles and standards as fair terms of cooperation and to abide by them willingly, given the assurance that others will likewise do so.” Far from being an exercise of Reason, “reasonableness” reflects a willingness, in the interest of civil peace, to rein in that potentially disruptive faculty.

In short, in the eighteenth century, a commitment to reason denoted a willingness to pursue the truth and to follow the argument wherever it leads, with the confidence that reason will ultimately lead people to converge on the truth. In contemporary political liberalism, in stark contrast, “reasonableness” denotes a willingness not to pursue or invoke for vital public purposes what one believes to be the ultimate truth – a willingness based on the judgement that reason will not lead to convergence but will instead subvert a civic peace that can be maintained only if people agree not to make important public decisions on the basis of arguing about what is ultimately true.

Rawls attempts to finesse this daunting problem by simply stipulating that an “essential feature of public reason is that its political conceptions should be complete.” Under this stipulation, “public reason” is by definition adequate to “give a reasonable answer to all, or to nearly all, questions involving constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice”: a discourse lacking such complete-ness, it seems, would not qualify as a form of “public reason.”

Now, though, instead of laying principal blame on poor schools or profit-driven media or evangelical religion, ,we can notice the way in which shallowness in discourse is actually prescribed by some of the most influential political thought of our time (because Rawls was only the most prominent in a whole family of like-minded theorists.) It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the very point of “public reason” is to keep public discourse shallow – to keep it from drowning in the perilous depths of questions about “the nature of the universe,” or the end and the object of life,” or other tenets of our comprehensive doctrines. And that prescription, as we have seen, is in turn the product of a general loss of confidence in the capacity of reason to actually lead people to truth in such matters. “You have your opinions and I have mine,” we are wont to think, “and nothing in our so-called ‘reasoning’ is likely to change our minds.”

Max Weber famously described the change as the “disenchantment of the world”; he sometimes spoke of modernity as an “iron cage,” in which life is lived and discourse is conducted according o the stern constraints of secular rationalism. It is that cage – the cage of secular discourse – within which public conversation and especially judicial and academic discourse occurs today. 

…when we attempt to engage in reasoning about vital normative concerns, our performances turn out to be a pretty shabby and unsatisfactory affair. So unsatisfactory, in fact, that many people eventually conclude that there is little point in pretending to participate in the enterprise at all–an enterprise that often looks like an exercise in inventing, as F.H. Bradley put it, “bad reasons for what [we] believe on instinct.”

Our modern secular vocabulary purports to render inadmissible notions such as those that animated premodern social discourse – notions about a purposive cosmos, or a teleological nature stocked with Aristotelian “final causes,” or a providential design. But if our deepest convictions rely on such notions, and if these convictiosn lose their sense and substance when divorced from such notions, then perhaps we have little choice except to smuggle such notions into the conversation – to introduce them incognito under some sort of secular disguise.

Even so, corruption is still less than ideal. So it in our current circumstances, we have little choice but to put up with smuggling (and, perhaps, to throw our support behind the benign smugglers rather than the malign or misguided ones), we ought at least to retain some awareness of what is going on.

Smuggling implies that an argument is tacitly importing something that is left hidden or unacknowledged– some undisclosed assumption or premise. But relying on an unacknowledged premise of belief is not in itself enough to constitute smuggling, because all discourse does that, and could hardly do otherwise.

That criticism, once again, is that the secular vocabulary within which public discourse is constrained to operate today is insufficient to convey our full set of normative convictions and commitments. We manage to debate normative matters anyway– but only by smuggling in notions that are officially inadmissible, and hence that cannot be openly acknowledged or adverted to. The pervasiveness of smuggling allows our conversation to be less pointless or ineffectual than they might be. But the fact that we must smuggle in, and hence cannot fully own up to, our real commitments– often cannot articulate them even to ourselves — ensures that our discourse will often be barren, unsatisfying, and shallow in ways that critics like Jacoby and Dworkin say it is.


Reflections for paper

Want to be able to break cage of secular discourse when talking about ideas of justice.


Thoughts and Responses: “The Pain of Word Bondage”, Patricia Williams

This piece is written as a reflection on a reading for a Human Rights Perspectives class. It was not a full chapter, but an excerpt.  It is not intended to be a formal piece of writing, but rather a piece which is a product of writing practice. 


Patricia Williams is a legal scholar, specialising in critical race theory. She was one of ten black women in her graduating class of five hundred and thirty-six at Harvard Law. Williams is currently a Professor at Columbia University.

Critical Race Theory is a framework which is developed out of the social sciences, but is applied to law upon the assumption that the legal system perpetuates systemic racism, as it is based on ‘white supremacist’ values. A question that is regularly asked by Critical Race Theorists is, ‘what would the legal system look like if it was predominantly run by people of colour?’. However, it is not a theory that seeks to discard of legalisation, but rather sees legalisation as an avenue for emancipation and equality.

It can also be seen as reactionary to Critical Legal Studies, as critical race theory has been known to critique CLS for its failure to pay attention to racial oppression and its sources.

What I will be discussing is an excerpt from her 1991 work, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: A Diary of a Law Professor. This particular chapter focuses on her experience contrasted with her colleague, Peter Gabel’s experience when renting a house in New York. According to Williams, Gabel is looked at as something similar to a founding father of CLS.  From the formative reading and research I have done of Gabel, he seems like a person committed to the idea of enriching social relationships and feels that we are a society that is ‘suffering’ from isolation, as if it were an illness. In his article for Tikkun, called “The Spiritual Truth of JFK”, he states:

“There is no way for the forces of good to win the struggle between desire and alienation unless people can break through the gauzy images of everything being fine except the lone nuts, a legitimating ideology that is actually being supported by our denial of he pain of our isolation and our collective deference to the system to Authority that we use to keep our legitimating myths in place.”

Tikkun is a Jewish magazine covering politics, culture and society, so perhaps it could also be said of Gabel that his views of what society and community should be is influenced by a Jewish worldview, which places great importance on the unity and health of a community. It also places great importance on being generous and compassionate for people within a community.

In Williams’ piece, she discusses how she feels Gabel tries to make his transactions (in this case, the agreement between his landlord and himself as a lessee) informal, so that he does not feel like he is exercising his authority as a white male in a profession. She states that by becoming informal and giving up his (perceived/actual) authority, it is a way he feels he can gain trust form the lessor. Her experience was on the opposite side of the spectrum since she feels the pressure that comes from the (perceived/actual) expectations of being a black woman.  In order to gain the trust of her lessor, she made sure to sign all needed documentation, and felt the need to assert the fact she was a professional.

It is with this narrative she draw the analogy of the dichotomy between CLS and CRT. Williams empathises with the end goal of Gabel and CLS, which is to assert that “one’s sense of empowerment defines one’s relation to the law in term of trust/distrust, formality/infromality, or right/no-rights (“needs”)”. However, she greatly criticises the presuppostion of CLS, which is that rights-talk is “disutility in political advancement”. In other words, rights-talk, and perhaps the legalisation of rights, causes the creation of distance “from situations that could profit from closeness and informality”. Also, CLS advocates believe that the notion of rights is causing agendas to be pitted against each other, rather than being used for their advancement. Instead, CLS scholars opt for the use of framing rights as “needs”.

Williams takes opposition to this and states that it is the rights-talk that has been able to give black america the language of emancipation. That it cannot be done away with altogether, because African Americans tried to have their needs heard, but were historically neglected, and were continuously disempowered. “‘Rights’ feels new in the mouths of most black people. It is still deliciously empowering to say,” she states in her conclusion. Rights language, in her opinion, presented black americans with an avenue for change and, to frame it in a Critical Race Theory view, they enabled black americans to take back some power from a government entrenched in ‘white american’ values. In conclusion, she implores that CLS not discard the language of rights, but rather see that the “goal is to find a political mechanism that can confront the denial of need.” Williams agrees that CLS has done an important work in ‘unmasking’ the rights mythology of liberal America, and thus “reveal the course of much powerlessness masquerading as strength… [and the] universalism of need and oppression among whites as well as blacks.” But she further suggests that the unveiling was not enough, and rather, it must also be used for good.

Williams then concludes the piece by stating that these rights should be ‘given’ as opposed to ‘discarded’. In other words, right and needs are not seen as mutually exclusive, but rather, in my opinion, she is saying that rights need to be given as the remedy for needs.

It seems like such a strange conclusion to draw, as it does seem like a common sense conclusion to say that if there is a need and it can be remedied by the assertion of a right, go ahead and assert the right. However, I do think that the reason why this does not happen as a matter of common sense, and why CLS has taken an oppositional stance to rights language, is because ‘rights’ supports very self-driven, individualistic thinking when taken out of the context of protecting disempowered minorities. Rights language was not supposed to be the language of the oppressors, but of the oppressed. It was the framework of liberated countries who were tired of monarchies and theocracies, plagues with elites. It gave the working class man a language to fight against such powers. I feel on the quest to make sure that rights were to be the main flag-wavers of equality, the above view has been forgotten, or at least, skewed. As a western, liberal collective, we have not been able to grasp the fact that, although we may all have these rights because of the fact we are human beings, some of us are already living out this identity, and others are not. Furthermore, I think the part we are really missing, or rather, what I think is lost in human rights law is the importance for those who are living with their rights fulfilled to advocate for the rights of those who are not living them out with similar  freedom. I get the feeling that people believe rights are for simply for them as an individual, and as long as they are being met, then the system is working. When does rights language implore us to seek, actively search for a person who has a limitation imposed on their rights? Taking it back to Gabel, since his work is more about searching for ways, including language, that is going to inspire deeper social connections and relationships, it becomes understandable, why ‘rights’ may be unsuitable for this job.

Conversely, I agree with Williams, in that rights-talk cannot be done away with altogether, because when the disempowered share their needs, it is not always listened to by those in power. However, I do not think we can do away with framing problems as needs either, because it is by understanding the need, we can understand which rights to assign. But more importantly, and perhaps, something that is of fundamental importance, we understand the actual human being behind a need and are made to empathise with them. We could actually understand the grievances of a particular individual or people group, rather then skipping this procedure of getting close-getting proximate- because we assert to already know what problems people have due to our robust, systemised, rights framework.

It has stirred up the question of whether the notion of ‘human rights’ creates compassion. This is important because is it not compassion that will make us act with an active duty to protect people’s rights? To actually, actively seek the needy, marginalised and disempowered? Rights, when expressed in a legalistic manner, appear to be obligations that simply need to be met. Yes, they could be espoused as fact. However, just because something is a fact, may compel people to believe in it, but that does not necessarily mean it compels them to live out such a framework – embody such a framework.

There will potentially be more to come in this space of human rights discourse. Thoughts welcome.








Thoughts on reading Isaiah

Put simply: It’s a tough slog.

I watched a Bible Project video on the Book of Isaiah (I’m very obsessed with the Bible Project and I feel everyone else should be too, so please go and watch every video and listen to every podcast), and it made me think of how helpful having that big picture perspective is.

But then it also reminded me of how grateful that I wasn’t a character in Isaiah’s recollections. I didn’t have to live through the tough slog, all I have to do is read it. If I was living in that time, I would not have access to the entertaining, yet insightful, musings of Tim Mackie and Jon Collins. I would not have access to the perspective that retrospect can bring.

God’s authoring our story now. He may already have the ideas and know exactly how His masterpiece will go, but he’s authoring it all right now. So when I feel that I am in the middle of a tough slog, I will remember that someday, someone will learn from the period of time that I’m living in. Someone will see a part of my story – and perhaps not my particular story and life, per se, but the one that can be constructed from the time that I live in – and they will be able to gain some sort of beneficial perspective from it. They will learn lessons from it.

So, in the mean time – for one cannot see the scope of God’s eternity, his eternal narrative – I will celebrate the privilege it is to be used to write this particular part of it.

To author what I see my Father doing in this time.

For there will be no other time like the time he has placed me in.

So with that Lord, I will ask, Where are you working God?

How to think theologically about rights – Stanley Hauerwas

It is quite an overwhelming experience reading the biography and list of Hauerwas’ works. Mostly because it reads like a celebrity’s rather than a theologian’s. I have heard the hype around Hauerwas; how he has been labelled ‘America’s Best Theologian’, holds some prestigious titles and won prestigious scholarships. I have also made a pitiful start of reading his A Community of Character – a book that is, apparently, in the top 100 most important books on religion in the 20th century. Look him up for yourself. It doesn’t take long to see that Stanely Hauerwas is ‘big-wig’ in this type of scholarship.

However, if you watch his interviews, he does seem like a person who has not really strived for his success and accolades. Not to say that his writing, or reading is equal to zero effort – but just that he appears to be a man that lives and breathes the profound. Whose mind is constantly wired in the abstract, the nuanced, and the critical. A man who would have been thinking and writing about these things regardless of where it took him in his career.

An interesting man that will probably take a fair bit of time to unravel and understand. I hope to get to know him through his writings over the years. If your interest has also been piqued somewhat, have a look here: https://divinity.duke.edu/faculty/stanley-hauerwas.
What I like about this list is that he also includes his own recommendations for reading.

The following excerpts are from an article that he wrote for the Journal of Law and Religion in 2015. It touches on a topic that has been nagging at my intellect for a while. It does appear, in some ways, ‘blasphemous’ for a person to disagree with human rights, and even down right contradictory for a Christian to speak out against our modern day standards of elite ethics and virtue. In this article, Hauerwas comically relays this sentiment and states, “I take it to be a mark of our times that a theologian may have worries about whether God exists, but we cannot call into question the status of rights”. He goes on to offer an important counter-rhetoric to how we, as Christians, should be questioning rights, and more specifically, ‘rights language’. By using the works of Simone Weil and Rowan Williams, Hauerwas attempts to provide a way to interact with rights language, without having to necessarily prescribe to the narrative of its ultimate, end-goal importance.

It has made me further question how rights language is not used in the Bible. How Jesus did not come stirring up people’s entitlement to certain rights in order for people’s inherent value to be shown, but rather, in order to do so, he gave up everything he had, including his life.

It has also reminded me of the work of Martti Koskeniemmi, who focuses on international human rights law as a language, and the power and limitations of that language. Unfortunately, I will have to brush up on my research to give you more detail, but I do remember his work leading me to affirm the belief that rights, and especially when looked at as merely a language, are just a means to an end. They are not our overall goal. This is correlative to Hauerwas’ belief that rights should merely serve as a tool to harbour “thick moral relationships” between one another. He argues that they should serves as reminders or these relationships, and cannot be “mistakenly assumed to be more basic” than virtues, such as kindness.

Perhaps the language of rights does further propel the notion of entitlement.

I know I may have stirred up some questions, so please read on, for Hauerwas has done this topic much more justice than what I could here at this time.
Continue reading

‘The Study of Law and Religion in the United States’, John Witte

John Witte is the Director of the Centre for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. Emory is known for its robust scholarship in Law and Religion studies, with Witte as a great contributor. Find a select bibliography and more information about Witte at: http://law.emory.edu/faculty-and-scholarship/faculty-profiles/witte-profile.html. 

The following are excerpts from an article that traces Law and Religion scholarship and its development in the United States. It is clear that the American scholarship in this area is quite overwhelming. This made me wonder what the state of Law and Religion Scholarship is in my own country of Australia, and it appears to be quite the opposite. Australia seems to still be questioning the legitimacy of intersecting law and religion, which does make sense when it is considered that we have had a not too dissimilar mindset from American jurisprudence regarding separation of Church and State. Witte follows the degeneration of the wall of separation for his own society, which calls to question whether similar legal traditions, i.e. Australia, may follows suit.

All in all, an article worth reading as it serves as a great introduction for people who are wanting to venture into the nuances of this scholarship, and for those looking for areas that call for further research. It also serves as a dose of perspective, calling us in our different religious traditions, to approach each other with deep reverence instead of with unease and contention, so that we would not miss the opportunity to deepen our understanding, and our relationship with God.  Continue reading

New Adventures for 2017

A goal that I am trying to achieve this year is to be accepted into a Legal Research Dissertation elective for my University studies.

As the history of this blog probably suggests, I became very interested in the intersection of law and religion. It was only natural I suppose. So, it is just as natural that my proposed thesis topic will be around law and religion, and what it means to be a Christian and engage in the public square.

The next few posts will most probably be quotes and thoughts about the reading I will do in order to prepare for my proposal, due in June. I’ve just heard it’s a good way of documenting research and practising the elusive art of putting down ideas and concepts.

If you have any suggestions about further material I should turn my mind to, please let me know.

Please enjoy this picture of a scenic mountain view. I was trying to exercise my WordPress skills, to again realise, I have close to none. It is a great view though.



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.

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.”


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