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Is Christian Zionism contributing to the Israel/Palestine Impasse?
The insidious influence of Christian Zionism on domestic American politics and through these politics on actions that prevent a just outcome to the Israel/Palestine impasse is far deeper and more threatening to peace and security than is popularly understood. It is past time that it is called out as having no biblical foundation, that its unconditional support for Israel has resulted in actions that are antithetical to Christianity and that its opposition to a just peace, given full reign, would lead the Middle East on an apocalyptic trajectory, a trajectory justified by Zionists as fulfilment of biblical prophecy.
How might Christian Zionism be defined? “Christian Zionism is a political movement within Protestant fundamentalist Christianity that views the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, thus deserving unconditional economic, moral, political, and theological support.”
Searching for insights into the reach of contemporary Christian Zionism, let’s begin with the opening of the US Embassy in West Jerusalem in May 2018. The Christian leaders invited to pray and speak at the ceremony were John Hagee, senior pastor at the Cornerstone Mega Church in San Antonio Texas and Robert Jeffrees, pastor of the Southern Baptist Church in Dallas Texas and host of Pathways to Victory syndicated TV programme. Currently, they are arguably the highest profile US Christian Zionists. Let’s hear a little from John Hagee:
“For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter, or they will have to denounce their faith. So, I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.”
In March 2007, Hagee spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began by saying:
“The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…”
He went on to warn:
“It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.
Encouraging Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem Hagee trumpeted: through this action the president will enter political immortality.
Christian Zionism does not support Israel for Israel’s sake, but because ‘believers’ have been led to understand the Bible teaches Israeli sovereignty from the Nile to the Euphrates will herald the end of the world and trigger the ‘rapture’, when Jesus will come again and establish his Kingdom - from Jerusalem. So important is the acquisition of land to this cult like ideology that Zionists resist ‘land for peace’ or the unfolding of a peace process that would ultimately see the establishment of a Palestinian state.
It should not simply be left to secularists to describe this for what it is, absurd, dangerous, nonsense; but Christian voices should cease politely tiptoeing around, seemingly to avoid causing offence to fellow Christians, or being characterised as anti-Semitic by Zionist supporters. What is at stake is nothing less than our understanding of the Gospel itself. Tiptoeing around is to condone cruel apartheid for Palestinians who, through accident of birth and heredity, inconveniently stand in the way of these delusional ambitions, cloaked as they may be in saccharine piety. Tiptoeing around is not simply to support Israel in its overtly apartheid system of colonisation, it is also to turn a blind eye to the reality that Saudi Arabia has been the cradle from which terrorism has sprung, while the demonization of Iran leaves it dangerously outside the checks and balances that come with being part of an international community of trade and diplomacy.
Just as Christian Zionism’s concern for Israel resides in a very different priority; similarly, US Middle Eastern politics is driven not by events in the Middle East, but by US domestic politics and the base from which Donald Trump relies on for support – the Evangelical Christian right. We are confronted with utter hypocrisy and disdain for truth on every corner. It is very unlikely that Donald Trump believes the nonsense of the Christian Zionist position, but being their champion keeps him in the White House. (By contrast the very honourable John McCain refused to accept endorsement from this quarter). It is almost incomprehensible that Christians of any description could condone Trump’s deceitfulness, self-aggrandisement, and appalling behaviour, particularly to women, and yet none of this seems to matter to the Christian right, as long as he supports their agenda.
With numbers that might be upwards of 70 million, how has Christian Zionism become such a potent force in American politics? I do not feel competent to answer that question but will venture a few observations. First, Christian Zionism with its genesis in 19th century millennialism, pre-dates Jewish Zionism by about 50 years. Second, it is misleading to infer that all Christian evangelicals are Zionists. The English evangelical vicar, Stephen Sizer, is a very well-known and articulate critic of Zionism. Third, Zionism was covertly spread through popular and ubiquitous publications such as the Scofield Bible. Fourth, it is almost certainly true that Christian Zionists are far more vocal and virulent in their uncritical advocacy for Israel than American Jews. While a significant proportion of evangelicals and an overwhelming number of Zionists vote Republican, it is reported that most Jews continue to vote Democrat and that there is a growing divide between Israeli Jews and American Jews.
So, what of Australia? How many Christians are motivated by a Zionist ideology is very hard to know. What motivates Eric Abetz to demonise Palestinians and unconditionally laud the state of Israel? Only he could answer. His public statements following the Labor Party motion to make the recognition of Palestine a priority indicate either he has callous disregard for Palestinian suffering at the hands of the occupation and settlement programme, or that he chooses to block this reality from his mind. He continues to insist that Palestine refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist even though since the Oslo accord more than 20 years ago Palestinians have accepted a territorial divide based on 1967 borders. Further he refuses to acknowledge that the boot is on the other foot, most ministers in the Netanyahu government have said they will never allow a Palestinian state.
South African apartheid enjoyed the imprimatur of conservative Christians based on spurious interpretation and application of biblical text. To be doing the same in the land of Jesus who revealed that in God there are no boundaries, no divisions; common or shared humanity is more important than tribal, ethnic or religious identity; is to deny the very foundations of Christianity itself.
There are some matters about which all Australians should feel corporate guilt and shame. Two come to mind. First, we should feel guilt and shame that we have elected to power and tolerate in government political leaders who refuse to acknowledge and give due weight to the consequences of climate change. And secondly, we have elected a government and have kept in power the same political leaders knowing that in our name innocent asylum seekers are being passively tortured on Manus and Nauru. We are all diminished because wilful blindness and deafness from our leaders causes an unnecessary environmental burden on all future generations and especially on the poor; and because some of the world’s most vulnerable have been subjected to crushing cruelty, supposedly in the name of our security.
Over the New Year I have read Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains, 2018. Behrouz is an Iranian Kurd being held on Manus. His manuscript was laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone. It should be compulsory reading for all federal politicians and indeed for any who might still hold lingering thoughts that what we are doing is justified.
Behrouz, is a journalist, academic, poet and writer and a very astute observer of human behaviour. He holds many media and literary awards.
The book begins with an account of his terrifying journey from Indonesia, including the eventual sinking of the unseaworthy boat, his rescue, and eventual arrival on Christmas Island. He was unlucky enough to arrive just after legislation was passed which meant no asylum seeker who arrived by boat would be settled in Australia , however worthy that person might be, let alone declared a legitimate refugee by the UN. They must either return to their country of origin or languish indefinitely on Manus or Nauru.
The book is primarily about his years on Manus and what he describes as a Kyriarchal system designed to intimidate and break those held as its prisoners. A Kyriarchal system is one in which those in power seek to control in submission others, who, for whatever reason, are considered unworthy of the respect and decency that should normally be afforded another human being. Such systems have operated throughout human history with racial, gender, economic, religious and class overtones.
How the system has worked on Manus in our name is so shameful that it makes very painful reading. Behrouz methodically describes all aspects of daily life and how it dehumanises, resulting in developed behaviours, necessary for survival, that the system then rewards. Detainees, with a few exceptions, do not have the luxury of emotional empathy for others. Life revolves around food; the detainees are constantly hungry. Those who arrive first avail themselves of the pick of the food. Those who are last have least. Those who arrive first are always the same, the strongest.
Phoning loved ones back home is a life line. Inflexible rules govern everything. Behrouz tells the story of a man who needed to phone his dying father. The Australian officers would not allow him to make the call for three days because that was his scheduled time for a phone call. By then his father had died.
Medical assistance is described in less than flattering terms as a battle to get past paracetamol and advice to drink more water.
The stench of human bodies in close quarters with crude toilet facilities unavoidably leads men choosing to relieve themselves anywhere other than the designated place.
Adding to our shame, Behrouz describes the Australian officers in a much less favourable light than the Papuans who themselves are treated as less than equals by their contracted Australian overseers. We read of several occasions when the Papuans showed obvious empathy and care when confronted with the detainees suffering; empathy that appears to have been almost totally absent from the Australian custody offices.
Several incidents of death and self-harm are recorded.
Let us pray that Behrouz will soon arrive in Australia, we will be so much the richer for his presence. His insights, which are expressed both poetically and philosophically, are every much as needed as those of the doctor, lawyer or scientist. I particularly liked his insight into the role of the prophet. He observed that every true leader should be a prophet, one capable of leading her or his people into new understandings of truth. Given what passes for leadership these days in the US, or here in Australia, we can but long for such.
What makes our offshore detention even more cruel and hollow is that these days we may have strong maritime borders, but the same does not apply to our airports. Thousands arrive by air, who soon after arrival seek to change the terms of their visa.
There never has been any justification for incarcerating asylum seekers as if they are criminals. The pain and suffering is well documented and well known. The remaining detainees (Behrouz describes himself and others as prisoners) must not simply be released, but resources must be made available for years to come to assist them in recovery from the mental and in some cases physical scars they carry.
I strongly commend Behrouz book to you and recommend you pass it on to your representative in the Australian parliament. Those who continue to hold that our position is morally justified must be confronted with the account this book provides and if they continue to hold this position must envision themselves as directly responsible for its implementation and be held to account, if necessary by the courts, certainly by the justifiable condemnation that history will impose.
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all Humankind
Is ‘peace on earth, good will to all humankind’ a cruel fantasy? Are we destined to live in increasingly walled off environments, afraid of losing the little advantage we think we have?
I have recently returned from 10 days in the Palestinian Territories. The highlight was my journey to Nabi Saleh in Palestinian area C, north of Ramallah, the home of the Tamimi family and totally under the control of Israeli forces. Bassem, the father, shot to publicity when his visa was suddenly cancelled by the Australian government at Amman international airport en route to Australia. Ahed, the young daughter, gained even more publicity through the photograph of her slapping an Israeli soldier on the face as soldiers attempted to enter her house after her cousin was shot in front of her. The campaign ‘free Ahed’ became a global movement.
Meeting them reminded me of meeting Xanana Gusmao for the first time, or of the precious week my wife and I hosted Desmond Tutu in our home. There was a powerful dignity to them. They live in the rarefied atmosphere of those who have resisted intimidation and oppression and have gained a depth of humanity that alludes most of us lesser mortals. Rather than being filled with resentment they have a passion for the freedom of all humanity and have a vision for global peace and equity that is inclusive even of their oppressors. It was a very deep privilege to be with them. All this despite the fact they live with a demolition threat on their 1964 house, built on land that has been their ancestral home for generations. They rhetorically asked, “who is the freest? We who have stood up to oppression, or those of you in Australia who so easily are cowered and avoid telling the truth”? While absolutely no compassion is being shown them from occupying forces, they have no resentment and seek to live in harmony and equality with all who now live in this land Palestinian and Israeli alike. Ironically they are the ones who have found peace and in that sense they are the ones who have ‘won’ , their oppressors can too, when they decide for compassion and reconciliation.
I spent four days in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The intimidating security wall, twice the height of the Berlin wall, curves deeply into the city around Rachel’s tomb. Directly opposite the wall is Banksy’s ‘Walledoff hotel’. Banksy’s art and the wall graffiti use the powerful weapon of satirical image to point to the reality that those who promote fear and oppression are the real prisoners and that even a little girl with a handful of balloons can scale a wall of division.
Humans are created to relate: being isolated or isolating others is to become inhuman. Humans are born to be hospitable: to be greedy and self-focussed is to be less than we can or should be. Humans need the company of the stranger who can become a friend: alone we are nothing; in company we are everything. In recent years the Wise Men have had to take a circuitous route to enter Bethlehem, indeed have had to face the humiliation of check points and the probable confiscation of their precious gifts. But come they still do and in arriving they are still amazed. As Bishop Peter Chrysologus in the fifth century wrote: “God saw the world falling into ruin because of fear and immediately acted to call it back with love. God invited it by grace, preserved it by love, and embraced it with compassion”.
There is so much in our contemporary world about which to be disappointed, indeed about which to despair. But into this despair true humanity can and does break through and the light of what we are intended to be becomes visible again. This last week has seen the extraordinary act of strangers observing a family swept out to sea. It turned out they were an Indian family. These strangers swam out approximately 700 metres through turbulent water to rescue some of them. There was no obligation or responsibility other than the responsibility of shared humanity. No reward was expected other than the satisfaction of knowing that they acted to save the lives of others.
The Old Testament wisdom writers famously said: “without vision the people perish”. (Prov. 29:18). There is little doubt that if given vision for a less selfish, less greedy, and a more harmonious, sustainable, just and peaceful world, people will respond selflessly. From the political elite that vision is not currently on offer, or leadership provided. At present the vision offered is that we are the sum of all that we accumulate or possess and therefore competitive consumption is the only game in town.
The vision emanating from Bethlehem is very different. Sadly, it is a vision that has been lost under the haze of self-promoting and self-aggrandizing religious practice about which the general population has rightly become dismissive.
But if for a moment the smoke can be lifted, and we can see and hear afresh, the vision is as powerful today as it was for those who lived and were transformed by it in the first century.
Grace and humility are more powerful and life transforming than wealth or position. The world and all its creatures need to be viewed not as a market for exploitation and profit, but with awe and wonder. We are to judge our achievements not by that which is most spectacular, but by the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us. What is freely shared multiplies, what is withheld diminishes the withholder.
Either there is a story, a narrative, which frees and emboldens all humanity to new heights of shared and sustainable living, or we must all live in our walled environments attempting to protect from the enemy outside the little we have gathered or inherited. But the narrative tells us the enemy is within. If we build the wall, we enclose with us that which has the capacity to undo us.
If we are open to embrace the world and all its complexity and recognise we are no more but no less than a tiny part of a wonderful whole, then the future can truly be: ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all humankind’.
Full marks to Scomo’s minders for digging him out of his self-inflicted hole
The Prime Minister’s announcement today is a tortuous attempt to salvage himself from a pre-emptive thought bubble prior to the Wentworth bi-election and does not contribute to the peace process as he claims, but rather rewards Israel for bad behaviour.
The best one can say is the announcement is not as catastrophic as many feared. However, the problem with it is that it ignores the reality that Israel has declared Jerusalem to be its eternal and undivided capital. In other words, Australia may somewhat pompously say it is all fine, we are only recognising West Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that Israel considers Jerusalem to be undivided. If the Prime minister’s words are to have any meaning, he (and Australia) will need to be far more proactive, if necessary, through sanctions and boycotts, to pressure Israel into a genuine commitment to peace and the recognition of Palestinian rights, specifically in East Jerusalem. Supporters of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem argue it is simply recognising reality. That is the point, it is recognising the reality that Israel would like it to be – the surrender of Palestinian rights that exist under international law.
Earlier this year Israel passed what it called a State Law, with ‘constitutional gravitas’, that Jerusalem is its eternal and undivided capital, that full citizenship can only be granted to Jews, that Arabic is no longer an official language and that building settlements is part of core Jewish identity.
In these circumstances, how is it possible to give Israeli recognition in Jerusalem without at the same time ceding Palestinian rights and Palestinian hopes?
Our government continues to justify its unequivocal and uncritical support for Israel on the basis that it is the only democratic country in the Middle East. This is a hoax. By what definition of democracy do we recognise a country that does not grant full citizenry rights to all its people? This week a motion was put to the Knesset that all its people be treated equally. The motion was defeated.
As Bassem Tamimi put it to me last week, the world is run by capitalist colonisers who masquerade as deliverers of democratic government.
Israel currently exhibits all the characteristics of a 19th century coloniser, taking territory without recompense for its economic and geographic gain at the expense of those who have lived on the land in perpetuity, whose lives have been culturally tied to it, for generations. We Australians, or at least our government, has a very short memory. There was a time when we declared our continent to be terra nullius. We now live with the consequences of this ignorant and greed motivated attitude of mind. Israel was created on the same premise: ‘land without people for people without land’. Whether anyone in the past seriously believed the first part of the equation is doubtful, however the regular routine of moving Israeli checkpoints further and further into Palestinian Territory, bulldozing homes and villages and strangling the life of Palestinian people through the relentless building of settlements is not happening on ‘empty land’.
I could accept the Prime Minister’s announcement today, even rejoice in it, if I believed he will use every measure at his command to pressure Israel into acceding Palestinian inalienable rights in East Jerusalem, that he will censure Israel for its settlement building, and that he will do all in his power to ensure the delivery of a two-state solution on 1967 borders within a workable time-frame.
I have absolutely no confidence that this is his intention, based on the previous record of his party in government and therefore see his announcement today as pure politics: appeasing Israel and its supporters in Australia, assuring them that Australia continues to be Israel’s best friend; while at home trying to appease wise souls in Australia’s security and diplomatic service whose job has been to give him ‘fearless advice’ and without doubt have told him that his original thought was cavalier and reckless.
Finally, I wonder if the Prime Minster understands, as sadly I have come to understand, that the window for a two-state solution has, or almost has, passed; that settlement building with its connecting infrastructure has happened on such a large scale that it is now irreversible. Israel has made it clear that it intends to have a million illegal settlers on Palestinian land in the foreseeable future. In these circumstances commitment to a two-state solution could be a cynical commitment to the status quo, giving Israel more and more time to make its annexation of Palestinian lands and its cooping of Palestinians into Bantustans complete.
Apartheid is the only name one can use to describe this activity. If we are cooperating with Israel on this path then the only option open to us is to insist on equal rights for all, regardless of religion, class or ethnicity.
Mr Morrison and your cabinet, you cannot simply make a statement and think your work is done. Either you genuinely believe in a two-state solution and you will use boycott, sanction, or any other means available to you to pressure Israel to a table where a just solution leading to long term peace, security and harmony on this basis will happen, or you do not. If you do not, then you must require Israel and the PLO to come to an agreement which enables all peoples to live together in the same land in peace and harmony with equal rights, an outcome which would immeasurably strengthen both Palestinians and Israelis and produce an entity which could genuinely be named a 21st century democracy.
The following are glimpses of my recent trip to the Palestinian Territories, written in the context of an open letter to the Executive Council of Australian Jews. I shall write again when the Prime Minister's policy about Australia's diplomatic presence in Israel and its policy towards a peaceful and just resolution for Palestine and Israel alike is revealed.
I am honoured that you think my contribution to public debate on the situation confronting Israel/Palestine is worthy of your monitoring. I note that you have considerable references to me in your annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia. It is to this I would like now to respond.
I have just returned from 10 days in the Palestinian Territories and would like to give you a glimpse into my experiences.
I visited the military court to witness the parading of young children, shackled, before a military judge for action of civil disobedience, primarily stone throwing. Let me illustrate from the case of a young 15-year-old from Hebron. I met his parents in the waiting area. They were a decent normal couple wanting to live ordinary lives who beside facing the daily humiliation of checkpoints and other restrictions have had their lives turned upside down by military intrusion into their home at 3.00.am in the morning when their lad was dragged from them. I asked the boy’s father what message he would like me to take to the world. He said, please tell the world the settlements are choking us. We have no freedom to live normal lives.
The boy, who has already been in custody for a month, was brought in with three others. It was a charade. The whole matter lasted barely five minutes to find his case was adjourned again. He was handed a document in Hebrew to sign, a document he could not read or understand. I felt helpless and humiliated for them, that by default my government supports this daily ritual. (We are constantly reminded that Australia and Israel share the same values – we most certainly do not). I promised the family that I will light a candle for them every day in my home in a feeble attempt to keep the light of hope alive.
I went to meet the Tamimi family. On a few rare occasions in my life I have felt I have been in the presence of true humanity. I felt it when I walked into a room for the first time to meet Xanana Gusmao. I felt it deeply when Desmond Tutu stayed in my home for a week, and I felt it when introduced to the great Madaba (Nelson Mandela). This family exists in the rarefied atmosphere of those who have resisted intimidation and oppression and have retained not simply their own dignity, but also love and commitment for the freedom of all humanity – including their oppressors. They live in area C the largest portion of the Palestinian Territories which is totally under the control of Israeli occupation with no rights or freedoms, including no right to build on their own property. I was reminded that Bassem had been invited to Australia only to find that when he reached the Amman intentional airport his Australian visa had been cancelled, presumably on advice from you guys to the Australian government. Bassem asked me who was the freest, himself who stands up against oppression or an Australian like me who is afraid to stand up against a Lobby that manages to cower Australian media and politicians alike. The answer is painfully obvious.
I journeyed to Hebron again, the largest Arab city on the West Bank. I understand the city consists of 700,000+ Arabs with a few hundred settlers guarded by a couple of thousand Israeli troops. I stopped outside a home that in the previous 24 hours had been confiscated by Israeli authorities, the Arab family that had lived there for generations were gone and a party was being held by the new settler occupants. Again, I walked past the shuttered and ghost like main street which has been banned to Palestinians for the last several years. But I want most to tell you that I walked down the current market thoroughfare for the second time. It is a bustling and culturally wonderful street, but which has tarpaulin and netting above it to try and protect it from the rubbish that is thrown from the settler dwellings above. I had my photograph taken with a wonderful old man in his clothing shop. He showed me a beautiful dress that had been soiled by urine which had been poured down from the settler building above, all done in clear sight of the military outposts that could act to stop these outrages - but choose not to.
I spent a day in the company of a journalist travelling around the world heritage declared area just outside Jerusalem and Bethlehem which is hemmed in by Settlements and its unique vista of terraces and continuous life style over centuries under threat. Clearly the intention is to cut off Bethlehem entirely from Jerusalem and to make life as difficult as possible for the Palestinians, presumably hoping they will go somewhere else. Most will not.
Some will. I visited the Melkite Church in Bethlehem, one of, if not the only Church still using the Aramean language in its worship. I spoke with the Church elder who in 2019 intends to migrate to the UK where his wife and children already reside. He says it breaks his heart to do that, but he said life has been made so intolerable because of the occupation that he feels he has no alternative. It is important for the Christian community worldwide to know that Christianity under occupation has been decimated. It is estimated now that the Christian population in Israel and Palestine is only about 1.7% from a population pre-1948 of over 20%.
From traders in Hebron to taxi drivers in Bethlehem they were all crying out for business. The Israeli Occupation has done such a good job in destroying any economic opportunity for them. The narrative that it is too dangerous for westerners to be in the Palestinian territories is an absolute lie. I have never felt safer. I am an inveterate walker. I walked at all times of day or night in Hebron, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. Not for one moment did I feel my security was at risk. Palestinians are by nature kind, generous and hospitable.
I had appointments in the Knesset. The one abiding memory of these appointments was feeling the humiliation felt by Arab members of the Israeli parliament that a law has been passed that declares them to be second class citizens. They may in the past have felt this to be true, but now it is enshrined in law. What other country in the so-called free world has enshrined in law 20% of its population can never be full citizens.
These are but a few glimpses, I could give you many more.
I am very grateful to a young Israeli soldier, on duty, who was prepared to engage me in conversation. Following my question as to what future he hoped for he gave a surprising but wonderful response. He said he hoped his children and grandchildren would not be called up for duty as he had been. That they would not have to act against an occupied people as he has had to do and that the time will come when Arabs and Jews will share the same rights and opportunities and live together harmoniously and peacefully.
You see dear ECAJ the occupation is as demeaning to Israelis as it is to the Palestinians. I do not have any sense of antipathy to Jewish people, in fact the opposite, but I have angry contempt for a cruel and evil system that denies common humanity to Palestinians and reduces Israelis to a paranoia of fear and victimhood.
Please keep monitoring me, I would be sad to think my contribution is not worthy of scrutiny. But better still come with me to the Palestinian Territories and see what currently your eyes refuse to see, and your ears refuse to hear.
Nationalism: the world’s greatest threat
We owe President Emmanuel Macron a debt of gratitude for yesterday’s speech in Paris. “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” the French leader said.
“In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”
The first world war was not inevitable in the sense that ‘a great evil’ was being confronted. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 the relationship between Serbia and Austria-Hungary became white hot, but initially at least no other country needed to be involved, least of all Britain. Russian sympathies were with Serbia and Germany’s with Austria Hungary. Piece by piece France, Belgium and ultimately Britain were dragged in, simply because their national pride was tied to the alliances they had formed and the rivalries that existed between them. Lloyd George later remarked that at this time Europe “stumbled and staggered into war”.
The cost of wounded national pride was to be 40 million casualties including 19 million deaths. The first world war is arguably the greatest disaster ever to befall humanity and the greatest ever failure of human leadership, both political and military. What were they thinking when they led the world into such a dark place?
Following the ‘war to end all wars’, in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Germany was humiliated by the confiscation of many of its territories, by being blamed exclusively for the war and by the reparations demanded of it. Here the seeds of the second world war were sewn, all on the back of arrogant European nationalisms.
After the war there was relief and a desire to put this awful period in the past. There was probably not enough genuine reflection upon what had brought humanity to this point and what needed to be done to avoid a disaster of this magnitude in the future.
Interestingly such reflection was provided at the 1920 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, meeting from all over the Anglican Communion in London at the invitation of Archbishop Randall Davidson. In August 1920 more than 18 months had elapsed since the end of the war, time for sober reflection nd judgement. As recorded in the resolutions and papers of the conference the bishops asserted that the greatest lesson to be drawn from this calamity was that the real danger facing humanity was self-interest and that as dangerous as individual self-interest might be, national self-interest was far greater. They went on to conclude that Christians enjoy two citizenships: that of the country to which they belong and that of the whole human family. Further, if citizenship of the former conflicts with the latter then Christians should be under no misapprehension as to their prior responsibility as global citizens under the sovereignty of God.
These reflections deserve urgent prominence today both within the Christian community and within civil society as a whole as we grapple with the phenomenon of rising nationalism throughout the world. Nationalism is tribalism writ large. It should therefore be no surprise that one of the common features of nationalistic fervour is racist language and behaviour. This article is not long enough to rehearse all the countries caught up in racist language and action, but they notoriously include Myanmar, Philippines, China, Israel and the US. Sadly, Australia is also on the list. Nationalism is forged from an exclusivist identity, in seeing oneself as different to others.
Australian nationalistic fervour has had hundreds of millions of dollars poured into its narrative in the last four years. We are encouraged to see ourselves and our identity forged by war on foreign lands. Why? 60,000 did not return from World War 1. Hardly a family was untouched. Many families had to endure the company of men (and women) who were so bruised by their experience that the rest of their lives were robbed of the joy that might otherwise have been theirs.
There are many competing narratives for Australian identity that are not allowed to properly emerge. Immigration has by any measure had a far greater influence on our identity than war. But more than this the identity of being part of the oldest living culture on the planet, a culture which many of the early white settlers failed to understand and sought to destroy can and should be what makes us so thoroughly unique. The frontier wars that accompanied this struggle find no enduring place in our modern culture of remembrance. Why is there no place for remembrance of these frontier wars in the Australian War Memorial or on ANZAC Parade? Presumably this memory does not suit the nationalistic ANZAC myth we have developed about ourselves through war with foreign nations.
President Macon was right to warn that the perilous clouds of nationalism that were at the heart of WW1 seem once more to be gathering, and particularly so in the language of the so called ‘leader of the free world’. Trump’s voice encourages nationalism in various domains throughout the world, quite apart from his own country, including those that by any measure must be called dictatorships.
I have recently been approached by a consortium of civic leaders to join them in a push to have the constitution change to prevent Australia going to war in the future on the whim of the Prime Minister and his/her cabinet. It will be argued that a decision to take the country into war must be a decision of last resort made only by a joint sitting of the whole parliament.
Nationalism is a cheap and easy clarion call as we have seen by the support those in the far right of our political spectrum can muster. Following the recent Melbourne stabbing the Prime Minister found it easier to go straight to a criticism of Muslims and Muslim leadership than to the disturbed mental health of the perpetrator. In the US many are willing to respond to the racist clarion call; it is dangerously naïve not to recognise the terrible consequences that flow from leaders who would define us in opposition to others.
“Australians are at last embracing Halloween”, blared a recent headline. While not wanting to be a party pooper, I ask whether this is a trend to be lauded or whether it is yet another confirmation of the trend into excluding opposites that increasingly besets Australian political, religious and civil life. Please hang in with me as I try to explain.
Until recently All Saints Day (Nov 1) was a significant festival in the annual Christian cycle, commonly know as the season of ‘All Hallows’. It was a significant festival on the calendar of my 1950’s school days. Church attendance on that day in Singleton (Hunter Valley) in the late 70’s and early 80’s matched Easter attendance and was second only to Christmas, numbering many hundreds.
The festival’s origins can be traced back to the Old Testament where the hoped-for harmony and wholeness expressed in ‘shalom’ would be ultimately fulfilled when, as hoped and longed for, God gathers the righteousness to a ‘high mountain’ (Zion) from where division suffering and conflict is finally banished. Thus, ‘Zion’ expresses a theological/eschatological hope; it is not about geography, although Jerusalem is that ‘high mountain’ , least of all in its biblical context is it an expression of nationalism. Tragically the modern Zionist movement is about the occupation of territory to the exclusion of all others. The biblical concept of a ‘chosen people’ is that they are a conduit for God’s purpose not restricted to themselves, but inclusive of all humanity.
In the New Testament, the question of how and where God is to fulfil the shalom hope for everlasting harmony and peace is famously picked up in the dialogue Jesus has with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). She asks whether it is to be the Samaritan site of the long gone northern kingdom, or the Judean site of the southern kingdom, Jerusalem. Jesus says neither and goes on to speak of those who worship God doing so in spirit and truth. For Christians the eschatological hope in Zion as a place has been replaced by hope and confidence in Zion as a person, Jesus, who has bridged the gulf between earth and heaven. The Zionist eschatological hope, transferred to Jesus, is wonderfully expressed in John Newton’s hymn:
Glorious things of you are spoken,
Zion city of our God….
See, the spring of living waters, springing from eternal love…
Blest inhabitants of Zion, washed in their Redeemer’s blood:
Jesus, whom their souls rely on, makes kings and priests to serve our God…
The climactic expression of this hope is of course to be found in the opening verses of Revelation 21. Zion, new Jerusalem, is nothing less than a new creation. Because God is completely immersed in the created order in Jesus, division between material and spiritual is abolished, division is gone. God is not to be thwarted, the harmony that was intended in the diversity of creation from the beginning is accomplished. Nothing that is of God is wasted or lost. The frailties and imperfection that inevitably accompany a transient world are gone. The Tree of life which is teasingly mentioned in the Genesis creation narrative (Gen 2:9) finally flourishes and all are gathered around it. In as much that Zion gathers the righteous, it is the righteousness of Jesus shared with all humanity that turns ordinary people into participating saints.
All Saints then is a celebration of life, a celebration of the Giver of life and the eschatological hope for harmony and peace which find their OT origin in Shalom and Zion. In this context it is a celebration of those lives who have gone before us, whose example and influence has shaped us and whose company we continue to share in the Communion of Saints around the Tree of Life.
Now, what of Halloween? There is much speculation about its origin. Is it connected to a northern hemisphere pagan festival associated with the impending darkness of winter? Is it associated with the end of harvest and of the poor going from door to door with a poem or song begging food from the more fortunate who have had a harvest?
As a boy who grew up in the UK, I have no recollection of Halloween. So, what has it morphed into and why is its popularity seemingly on the rise? For many, especially amongst the young, it is simply an excuse for a dress up party and there can hardly be any harm in that, other than the harm associated with excessiveness which can occur at any party.
The more macabre side of Halloween is almost certainly not taken very seriously by the vast majority. It presents as a fascination with death, with ghosts (souls that have found no resting place) with fear, with darkness and a right to play a less than pleasant trick on those who have not favoured you.
Given what we now know of sugar and its connection with childhood and lifelong obesity one might wonder how long the ‘trick or treat’ custom will remain in favour, especially as children appear to make no effort with costume etc, but simply walk from house to house with a plastic shopping bag in the hope of picking up as many sweets as possible.
No, the loss is not so much in what is done, but in what is not done. A tradition of hope, celebrating a life of inclusion and the abolition of conflict and division has been supplanted by something much less. Dr Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream speech” could be described as a modern song in veneration of Zion. So where is our dream to-day, of what do we dream? What idea do we hold of Zion or is it all lost in mindless materialism?
All Saints Day this year, need not have been reduced to the rather banal if not slightly macabre party time and could have been celebrating shalom in our current context:
· Indigenous culture and its oneness with creation
· The offering of safe-haven for refugees and asylum seekers and a repudiation of the culture of fear that has allowed Nauru and Manus to blight the reputation of all Australians
· The commonality we share with all human beings across the boundaries of wealth, ethnicity and religion.
· The lives of significant contributors to harmony and wholeness who once lived in this street, this suburb across the continent.
I find it particularly tragic that this All Saints tide a significant item of news has been that Australia might join the US in moving its embassy to Jerusalem and in doing so support Israel in its diminishing of the biblical aspiration of Zion’s inclusiveness and shalom, to a nationalistic aspiration for exclusion and superiority – the guarantee of generational suspicion fear and hatred for years to come.
Odd bedfellows: Political Conservatism and Christianity
Right wing conservatives have become increasingly dependent upon Christian support at the ballot box in Australia and the US. But what does political conservatism as expressed by Donald Trump in the US, or Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz or Cori Bernardi in Australia, have to do with Christianity?
To conserve, from the Latin conservare means to protect or conserve. This simple definition can be readily accepted as an expression of core Christian values. But what is to be conserved and how is the conserving to be achieved? It is not good enough to simply preserve the past, understand why institutions or practices evolved and preserve the good in them in light of the present. When I took up my appointment as Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn the magnificent Cathedral in Goulburn was in a state of considerable disrepair and was not a space easily given to engagement and creative expression. The modest plans to address this issue were vehemently opposed by those who considered its internal configuration to be sacrosanct and unchangeable. What I and those responsible for the Cathedral desired was to preserve and protect the reason for the Cathedral’s existence, a space available and adaptable for the creative and worshipping life of both the local congregation and the wider community.
Real conservatism has little to do with externals and everything to do with the ‘heart of the matter’.
There is ongoing debate in Australia about sexuality and gender. The debate is fundamentally about identity. The biblical view is that our identity is an expression of the company we keep, or to whom we belong: i.e. we are children of God and severally sisters and brothers of one another. The bible knows little of an individual, but of a brother, sister, parent, child, neighbor, employer, friend etc. While the bible knew of same sex behavior, it was assumed to be deviant activity of heterosexual people. Understanding that a percentage of the population does not and cannot identity as heterosexual is a relatively recent understanding. So, what is to be conserved? First and foremost, what must be conserved and protected (treasured) is the life of each as a whole and wholesome human being. Secondly what must be protected and honored are relationships which enable intimacy, commitment, virtue, and fulfilment; all fundamental ingredients of human flourishing. Christianity cannot be about conserving an identity which is possible for some but impossible for others.
Now to the most obvious arena for conservation – the natural environment. It is astonishing that those who identify as political conservatives, or indeed as religious conservatives, behave in such a cavalier manner to the natural environment, an attitude that is the very antithesis of Christian insight. Even the cautionary principle is eschewed in a stampede to exploit. The biblical insight is unequivocal. The whole created order, inclusive of humanity, is a relational world. Everything and everyone relates to everything else, no action is without consequence. A consumerist view of the natural order, exploits without consequence and turns anything and everything into currency – wealth. Walter Brueggemann the great New Testament scholar contrasts consumers with citizens thus:
Consumers are those who, after they eat and are satiated use as a third verb variously ‘exalt self’…self-sufficiency, self-indulgence, self-reference – an ocean of self. Citizens are those who after they eat and are satiated have a third verb ‘bless and remember’, that is they turn life back to the Giver.
How is it then that political conservatives, so diametrically opposed to conservation at the heart of Christianity, are embraced by a Christian subculture? The answer probably has to do with individualism – with the wrongful prioritising of self.
The Anglican divine Richard Hooker (1554 – 1600) is supposedly one of the fathers of political conservatism, but his concerns have little if anything to do with those of today’ political right. He argued that a citizen of Britain owed loyalty to the crown (Elizabeth 1) and that this loyalty was in part expressed through commitment to the Church of the crown. He was opposed to both Puritanism on the one hand and Roman Catholicism on the other, arguing what needed to be conserved was unity of Church and State – a divine institution. It was the Anglo-Irish philosopher of the enlightenment, Edmund Burke (1729-1797), however who is credited with conservatism as a political force. He opposed the French Revolution and emphasized property rights and the free market.
But what is political conservatism today? Many deny it is an ideology, or even a political philosophy, regarding it instead as a disposition that resists theoretical expression—a “non-ideology” that attempts to avoid the errors of ideologies. Is it an ancient attitude, or a proposition that developed in response to Enlightenment rationality and its political products, liberalism and socialism?
Without ideology it may have been in its infancy, however, there can be little doubt that political conservatism is now deeply entrenched in its own ideology, an ideology that I assert to be stubbornly irrational.
It is an ideology that seeks to commoditize everything. This is stubbornly irrational because life, both human and nonhuman, clearly depends upon a high level of communal sharing. Without an appropriate and necessary sharing of the natural order, nonhuman species will increasingly become extinct, and humans will experience escalating inequality. Indeed, critics of political conservatism argue it has become an ideology in general defense of social and economic inequality.
It is an ideology that stubbornly prioritises the free market, resisting any form of regulation. This is irrational because the market is not free. It is manipulated by those who trade on currencies, it is weighted by the trillions held by hedge funds, and it is dominated by a financial market which is not interested in trading one commodity for another, but solely in financial gain.
It is an ideology which is wedded to the idea of trickledown economics, that is to say in a growing economy wealth trickles down to everyone. This is a proven deception because those who gain from a growing economy are those who have positioned themselves to take advantage, the rest do not.
It is an ideology besotted with economic growth. However, it is an unarguable fact that economic growth is an illusion without population growth. The economy grows in size, but not in depth, as illustrated by the long-term stagnation in wages. Australia and the globe generally are on a lemming run if our future is dependent upon population expansion in a finite world.
Why do conservative Christians find any of this so attractive and why so forgiving of the obvious frailty and often outright scandal of the purveyors of this lunacy?
Sadly one of the reasons is that there is a certain symbiosis between political conservatism and religious conservatism. The former provides the latter with a political platform and a power base to pursue its narrow moral agenda while the latter provides the former with a numerical base and an assumed virtue of righteousness.
More worryingly, both wear a mantle of certainty, an elitism that eschews ambiguity, even dialogue. The political right treats those who challenge their assumed claim to the high ground and destiny to rule, as the enemy, as we have seen in the relentless attack on the ABC and Trump’s ‘fake news’. Of equal concern is the arrogance of not needing to engage with people with greater knowledge, demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s thought bubble on the Jerusalem embassy, or the ignoring of environmental advice.
It is past time for Christians, not seduced by this agenda, to find their courageous voice and engage in debate about the world we would like our children to inherit. Please do not let the world assume Christianity is as portrayed by the right. The foundations from which we are rooted are good news for all, and lived well will lead to a peaceful, just and harmonious world. With John Macquarrie we can confidently proclaim:
The self-emptying of Jesus Christ has not only opened up the depth of true humanity, but has made known to us the final reality as likewise self-emptying self-giving and self-limiting.
Does Australia support peace in the Middle East?
To contemplate moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to shore up the chances of the Liberal candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, is a small but very significant example of what is horribly wrong with Australian politics and why so few Australians now have any trust in the political process. That the Prime Minister denies any connection between the thought bubble and the weekend byelection stretches credulity and pokes fun at the electorate’s intelligence. What is it about our present government that it would even contemplate such a course? Please Mr Morrison you can do better than this, Australia certainly deserves better than this.
Dave Sharma’s partisan support for Israel while Ambassador, and his seeming contempt for Palestinian rights, is best illustrated when as Australian Ambassador he met the Israeli minister for Jewish expansionist settlements, in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem being notionally a core component of a hoped-for Palestinian State, it is hard to imagine a more inflammatory action. Mr Morrison claims that this latest thought bubble has arisen because of a conversation with Dave Sharma. Would it not have been more appropriate to seek advice from DFAT, or perhaps the current Ambassador to Israel? Why would you take advice from someone who is on the record as behaving in a counter-productive manner to the flagging peace process? Of course such a move would have the most severe consequences for Australia’s espoused two-state policy – it would be an admission of its end. Then Mr Morrison, with what policy are you intending to replace it?
This thought bubble also needs to be set within the context of the most bullish behaviour ever seen from an Israeli government, supported by the most bullish and irrational US president in history.
The US and Israel are pushing inexorably towards their imposed ‘final’ solution on the Palestinian people. Is it our intention to be unthinkingly aligned? Warming up to this solution they have:
· Discredited and defunded UNRWA to squash any possibility of a right of return and in the process left thousands of children in refugee camps without schooling.
· Discredited and defunded the Palestinian Authority on the spurious and unproven grounds that monies have been used to support terrorism.
· Passed a State law which entrenches inferior citizenship on non-Jews in Israel.
· Made Jewish outpost settlement on the West Bank legal.
· Continued to demolish Palestinian homes and in some cases entire villages.
· Escalated the building of Settlements in the Palestinian territories.
In the light of this behaviour we wish to reward Israel? These are values we share?
But there is an even broader and potentially more catastrophic context in which Palestine and Palestinians are but dispensable pawns. The two great Middle Eastern powers are Saudi Arabia and Iran, both desperate to extend their spheres of influence and counter the influence of the other. That Iran exercises influence through Hamas and Hezbollah should not be a reason to punish the entire Palestinian civilian population who simply want to live as others live, in freedom and relative prosperity. We are choosing to unequivocally side with Saudi Arabia in this struggle, largely because of Israel. It is not surprising therefore that Mr Morrison raised his other thought bubble of withdrawal of support for the Iran treaty in the same breath.
Israel cannot achieve its expansionist goals at the expense of the Palestinian people without the support of the house of Saud. In the past the US has always been best friends with Saudi Arabia because of its oil dependence. That is presumably the reason why following the 2001 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre conducted by Saudi terrorists, no meaningful action was taken against Saudi Arabia, instead a disastrous war was fought in Iraq. Oil dependency is no longer as acute. Now the house of Saud and its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the US and its Crown Prince (Jared Kushner), are best friends because of Israel and its ambitions.
But, being best friends with Saudi Arabia requires a certain moral amnesia.
· It appears almost certain that Saudi Arabia has killed the journalist Jamal Khashaggi in its Istanbul embassy for daring to be critical of its royal family and perhaps threatening to reveal past skeletons.
· Saudi Arabia is an oppressive society with severe human rights violations
· Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a brutal civil war in Yemen in which atrocities against civilians have occurred with impunity.
· Wahhabism, the theological underpinning of movements such as ISIS has its origins in Saudi Arabia.
· Saudi Arabia funds Madras throughout the world, including our neighbour Indonesia, from which hundreds, thousands, of young minds are radicalised.
· Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists were Saudi citizens.
History tells us that picking winners and losers is a very fraught business. Why are we picking Saudi Arabia against Iran and Israel against Palestine? We know that ‘winning and losing’ is deeply rooted in the Trump DNA. He cannot think outside this paradigm. But we join him on this path at our peril. The treaty of Versailles should be a sufficient history lesson to teach that creating losers totally undermines ‘winning’.
We should be doing all we can to support policies that allow for the dignity and prosperity of both Iran and Saudi Arabia while calling both equally to account for the human right violations of their own people. We are currently a long way from this position. Were we to walk away from the Iran deal we would be dangerously backing one side in a power struggle and thus escalating the risk. (Apparently we already have a non-transparent arms deal with Saudi Arabia).
Similarly with Israel and Palestine: to so obviously reward bad behaviour on the part of Israel and act to destroy hope and dignity to the 5 million+ Palestinian people is to strengthen a tinderbox of frustration and hopelessness from which violence is the only guaranteed outcome.
Mr Morrison, let Australia be known as a country that treats all humans with the same dignity, that believes removal of oppression to be as necessary for the oppressor as for the oppressed, and that believes people with difference cannot only live together harmoniously, but are all richer because of it. Let us be known as a people who support peace in the Middle East and justice for the Palestinian people, not at the expense of Israel but because this is in Israel’s best interest too.
There are crucial moments when individuals, families, and nations must decide whose side they are on. Now is such a moment in relation to the future of the planet and its climate. It appears that our government has decided not to be on the side of future generations and their right to economic and social stability, stability dependent upon climatic stability. For this reason, John Hewson, previous leader of the Liberal party, is absolutely right to have entered the Warringah bi-election with the mantra ‘vote for anyone other than the Liberals’.
No matter what policies the Coalition might have that can be deemed superior to their opponents, their abject failure to secure a climate policy renders them unfit to govern at this crucial juncture of human life on this planet. The Prime Minister’s claim that we will ‘meet our Paris commitment in a canter’ would be comical if it were not so serious, - it is even at odds with analysis he will have received. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to back that claim, indeed the evidence is clearly the reverse.
Of course, if we achieved zero emissions tomorrow we would not, on our own, save the planet: this is absolutely true. But that is to entirely miss the point. The globe will meet the necessary goal if and when there are enough nations pulling in the right direction and putting pressure on those who are not. By our inaction we are giving solace to all who are not pulling their weight, and we are doing it from one of the most advantaged positions on the planet. We have the skills and resources to more than pull our weight and we can do it without placing an impossible financial burden upon our citizens. Why do we scare people with the thought of legs of lamb costing more than $100 etc? Because politicians are obligated to powerful and cashed up lobbyists – that’s why.
The latest IPCC report, released this week, should scare everyone. That it does not is due to several factors. Chief amongst whom is that the mining industry, like the tobacco industry before it, pours enormous amounts of money into ‘think tanks’ that demand their arguments be taken as seriously as the overwhelming weight of the world’s scientific community. This is trading on the important principle of there being ‘two sides to every story’. But this principle is not universally applicable. We rely on a justice system that weighs evidence. If an alternative view were allowed no one would ever be convicted. A person is found guilty or innocent on the basis of evidence. The world’s scientists, from a range of disciplines, examining the evidence before them have consistently come to the same diagnosis in relation to the climate, and have provided ameliorating options. To ignore, or worse belittle, their findings, or suggest there is an alternative view, is recklessly irresponsible.
From my days as a theological student in the 1960’s I have sought to comprehend what is meant by truth and how its application shapes the direction of one’s life. I have come to understand the notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ to be ethical applications of universal or absolute truth. Universal human rights depend upon this principle. We cannot pick and choose. These rights apply to people of all ethnicities, all religions, all cultures. What is life giving must be life giving for all, what is life denying diminishes all. For good to be good it must also be common
It is this fundamental understanding of good and evil that makes populist nationalism and patriotism so dangerous. While tyranny and dictatorship are on the increase, not in decline, just as serious is the increasing trend in western democracies to put ‘America first’, put ‘Australia first’. Such rhetoric emanating from the president of the United Sates and mimicked by others including members of our own government, works on a false premise. It is entirely wrong to assume that Australia’s best interest is somehow different to, or independent from, global best interest.
We human beings are utterly dependent upon the health and wellbeing of the planet we share with 7.7 billion others. It is extraordinary that politicians like Craig Kelly can be so utterly dismissive of this fundamental reality. It is a universal good to put the health of the planet above most other considerations because (apart from the rights of the nonhuman world) the continuation of our species depends on it. Climate action is not lowering priority for human need, it is taking human need, dependent on climatic stability, very seriously.
The flip side of truth as an absolute verity is its relational application known morally in the expressions ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Right and wrong are not absolutes but circumstantial. Let me give an example from Australia’s ‘unfinished business’. All Australians are equal, and all have the same rights under law. However, the circumstances of Australia’s indigenous people are such that it is right that provision be made constitutionally to address that uniqueness. Equally it was very wrong of the government to be so dismissive of the Uluru statement from the heart.
There are several circumstantial factors in relation to climate that make Australia’s position morally indefensible - wrong.
· Per capita we have been amongst the world’s worst polluters. This is coming down. It should.
· Our continent is very vulnerable. Climate change consequences to farmers alone are almost incalculable. The long drought is warning enough. We cannot fix this on our own, but not to be in the front line of those who want to is inexcusable
· Our most iconic natural asset is the Great Barrier Reef. It is World Heritage listed, meaning we are this asset’s custodians for the whole world. While science is about diagnosis not prognosis the writing is clearly on the wall. That the government is so non-committal (notwithstanding the very controversial $.5B splash) and seeks to support a provenly corrupt Indian mining company, is beyond the wit of my limited intellect to understand. Barrier Reef dependent employment will always outnumber employment in an increasingly automated industry by multiple factors.
· Sources of renewable energy in Australia are abundant and the technology necessary to develop them is both proven and cost effective in comparison with fossil fuel. In addition, renewable energy will provide a flood of employment opportunity in regional Australia.
· Climate sceptics bang on about the need for base-load which, they argue, only coal can provide. In an energy sector which is increasingly diverse baseload is no longer the key, dispatchable energy is the key. SA’s mega-battery and the development of stored hydro will provide this flexibility far more cheaply than previous reliance on costly baseload.
· We have the intellectual, economic and technical capacity to move much more quickly in the right direction. Not to do so is morally wrong.
Australia has never been in greater need of genuine leadership. Malcom Turnbull did not lose the Prime Ministership because he wanted to move on climate change, he lost the leadership because he did not act and as a consequence allowed a conservative rump to fill the space. It seems most unlikely that Prime Minster Morrison or Premier Berejiklian will offer any leadership. (When given the chance Premier Berejiklian recently and notoriously backed the State’s biggest bully. It is up to the Australian people, especially people of faith, to take the lead and to express it at the ballot box.