What is wrong with humanity? - The spirit of Entitlement
What is wrong with Western Christianity? – Moralising has taken the place of ethical behaviour
These last weeks have been filled with sickening items of news. The following serve as a cross section: the invasion of the Jenin refugee camp by Israeli forces; the continued killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian drones; the outrage that is Donald Trump; the duplicitous theft of taxpayer money by PWC; continuing reluctance to deal responsibly with damaging carbon emissions; the scandal that is robodebt, the torture of refugees for up to 600 days in a small airless hotel room; growing opposition to the proposed indigenous voice to parliament based on the Uluru statement.
Looking at the diverse issues named above, one theme links them – a passive or active spirit of entitlement. To feel entitled is to misunderstand life. Life is not about things or objects, but about interactions or relationships. People of faith face only one challenge - choose life. To choose life is to choose to be a blessing in life’s interactions. To choose life is to act ethically.
The moralizing of Christians always misses the point. We are not here to condemn or judge, we are here to enable all and every person to choose life.
Clearly humanity has a major problem. But as a Christian, the problem for me is more painfully acute. It is manifestly and shamefully clear that some high-profile Australian political leaders who publicly attest their ‘Christian allegiance’ either do not see the above issues as a problem, or, worse, have been active promulgators of them. Conservative Christian leadership is quick to moralise about personal human behaviour but seems utterly incapable of seeing the bigger picture of systemic abuse. It is little wonder the world at large has long since rejected Christianity as a base for society’s renewal.
The catalyst for the Jenin incursion is not Palestinian militarism, but the entitled behaviour of Zionism and Settler activity. Since 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived as refugees, some in their own country. Jenin houses one such camp. The inhabitants of the camp are expected to accept their lot. Denied basic human rights, caged without freedom to travel, denied an economy or employment and facing further summary loss of land, homes and livelihoods by the spreading illegal settler community, they are expected to quietly submit. The Lions Den, targeted by the Israelis comprises 18+ year olds who simply refuse to accept this must be their lot. Why should they? Why should Zionist feel entitled to what historically and legally is Palestinian? Why is the international community so quick to condemn Palestinians as terrorists, but does absolutely nothing to challenge its cause, the entitlement of illegal settlers. Those aligned to the Christian right support Israel’s oppression on grounds that God intends Israel to occupy all the territory. IS THIS WHAT JESUS OF NAZERETH WOULD DO?
That Donald Trump is considered a serious candidate for reelection as president of the US is beyond astonishing. He lives a life of absolute entitlement demonstrated in keeping national documents, not paying taxes, lecherous behaviour towards women, encouraging or initiating anarchy, threatening national security etc. Trump’s electoral base is the Christian religious right. IS THIS WHERE JESUS OF NAZARETH WOULD STAND?
The behaviour of PWC is quite shocking. But what is perhaps even more shocking is that over a period of two decades self-interested and self-serving consultancy took the place of the public service in the monitoring and implementation of public policy. The lobbying power of consultancy firms is enormous, as is their rapacious self-interest. The spirit of entitlement is staggering. Telling the public service their fearless advice was not wanted, but that they would do what their political masters demanded was instruction from Prime Minister Morrison. This attitude of party-political entitlement led to the robot debt outrage and many Australians taking their own lives. Stuart Robert and Scott Morrison, high profile Pentecostal Christians, were central to the conception and implementation of this scheme. WHERE WOUD THE PRIORITIES OF JESUS OF NAZARETH LIE IN RELATION TO THE NATION’S MOST VULNERABLE?
Opposition to the Voice referendum has become a cause célèbre to the right of politics and by extension to the Christian right. Why? The arguments are self-contradictory. Some who oppose say the Voice does not offer enough, others that it offers too much. There is inability to accept or understand that indigenous sovereignty is not about control, as it is for us second comers, it is about spiritual and cultural relatedness. HOW WOULD JESUS OF NAZARTH VOTE?
As recently attested by Mostafa Azimitabar, treatment by the Australian Government of individuals found to be refugees has been cruel and shameful. Locked in small hotel rooms after arriving from offshore detention for months on end, this was torture. Why was this done? “To protect Australia’s borders”. Did boat arrivals increase when the men were eventually released into the community – no, of course not. The treatment was dehumanising and cruel. The main craftsman of this policy was Scott Morrison. WAS THIS A POLICY CONSISTENT WITH THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS OF NAZARETH.
Human behaviour has changed little over the centuries. We are all capable of greatness, but more often our lives are marked by the lowest levels of human behaviour. As St Paul said: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do”.
However, what has changed is that personal damage is more than ever likely to be experienced systemically. Institutions, including the Church, can be quite damaging as members of the LBGTQI community readily testify. Damaging treatment of the indigenous community for 200+ years has been systemic; this damage has been possible because of willful ignorance, shamefully continuing in the no campaign. The same is true of most of the other calamities mentioned in the opening paragraph. Where are Christian voices of justice? I am sorry to say they are drowned out by the moralisers. It would be preferable that no practicing Christian hold public office if they have no capacity to understand ethical issues lying at the heart of policy made, or policy ignored.
Popular sections of contemporary Christian teaching proclaim prosperity as a reward for faith. The many scandals in which Stuart Robert has been embroiled appear to confirm that this is what lies behind his Christian faith.
None of us are blessed for our own sake, we are blessed in as much as we are a blessing to others. On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending our local NAIDOC celebration. It was a privilege to be there. The ceremony was resonant of the Christian faith that I know. Release of energy, choosing life, honouring elders, singing the songs of the plants and animals, being aware of the Spirit’s movement.