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Conservative Christians say No to Indigenous Voice
“Christians for Equality has been launched to promote reconciliation and recognition and to prevent Australia’s constitution from being used as a lever for anti-Christian ideology.”
The Shelton-led group has urged Christians to vote against the voice, alleging it would enshrine Indigenous Australians as “forever victims”.
In an online pamphlet, it claims voting yes would instead “embed Indigenous spirituality into the constitution”.
“It will create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality leading to resentment,” the group’s pamphlet reads.
Lyle Shelton, previous leader of the Australian Christian Lobby and now a politician aspirant on the extreme right, heads Christians for Equality – a new network that seems to be more about politics than faith.
It is hard not to despair when such ignorance and stupidity is voiced by a person who seeks respect, even authority, as a Christian spokesperson.
First, Mr Shelton is ignorant of the faith he claims to espouse. The earliest biblical name for God is the ‘God who listens’, words uttered by Hagar. Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, went on to name her son Ismael which is a combination of the Hebrew words for ‘God’ and ‘listen’. Prayer has at its roots belief that God listens, a truth that is reinforced both in the words and rhythms of Jesus’ life. We Christians believe the nature of God is to be imaged and followed in what it means to be human. We are to respect one another through listening. Those who are strong are called upon to listen to those who are weak. Those who have authority are called upon to listen to those who are affected by that authority. It is sadly the case that very few Australians know an indigenous person, their views about First Nations people being second hand and coloured by the prejudice of the person providing the insight. The voice is a generous invitation to recent comers to hear indigenous people with no requirement or obligation, other than to respond with common humanity. In being the human face of God, Christ shows us what it is to be human.
Second, Mr Shelton and presumably those who rally around him, show total ignorance of indigenous spirituality and culture. Therse is nothing in indigenous spirituality that threatens Christianity. Unlike Mr Shelton’s Christianity, indigenous spirituality is not best understood through dogma. It is best understood through relationships. Relationship with the land. Relationship with language group. Relationship with elders. Relationship through songlines. Relationship with the past, present and future through story telling. Mr Shelton’s spirituality leads to ownership, individual rights and possession. Indigenous spirituality leads its people to understand what it means to be owned – by the land and the obligations and responsibilities that flow from it. Indigenous spirituality leads their people away from individual rights and privileges to communal responsibility and belonging. Rather than indigenous spirituality being somehow in conflict with Christian belief, there is much within indigenous understanding that will enhance and deepen Christian belief.
Third, Mr Shelton is ignorant of the Australian constitution. The Constitution was founded on racist attitudes, reflecting the prevailing views of the time. If it were being written today it would reflect very different views and address different concerns. It is simply nonsense to suggest embedding the proposed voice in the constitution will give one group of people an advantage over other Australians or cause division. It will do what should have been done 100+ years ago, acknowledge the pre-existence of peoples and cultures on this land. Such recognition assumes a voice needs to be heard, not only for the sake of First Nations peoples but for the sake of all who have since arrived.
It needs to be said that opposition to the referendum at its most base, is fear that somehow the voice will cost other Australians. Rather like opposition to action on climate change, failure to respond with good because it might cost something is hardly a trait that someone who espouses Christianity should be proud of.