In 2017, Australian politics has been dominated by questions and debates over identity. Whether it be the loyalties of our parliamentarians, the merits of sexual minorities being afforded additional social standing, to who can make a home in our country, rampant identity politics has been an underlying cause of division in our society.
As the year ends, many Australians remain dumbfounded at the incompetence being exposed with increasing numbers of senators and representatives revealing questions over their dual-citizenship status. Adding to the crisis of national loyalty is the scandal involving a senator having accepted funds from and tipping off a foreign citizen.
Initially when a handful of parliamentarians resigned after discovering their ineligibility to serve, some called for the supposedly outdated Constitution to be amended to provide leeway for individuals to hold dual-citizenship while representing the Australian public.
Having been an avid political observer and reader of the Scriptures, the country’s deliberations over loyalty raise an even more important question that not just our parliamentarians ought to consider. That is where does our identity lie – is it as a follower of Jesus that gives us citizenship in heaven or are we merely wanderers on this earth with no certainty in eternal life?
The Gospels remind us that it is not possible to serve two masters and those who try will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew chapter 6 verse 24). Similarly, the Constitution should not be changed for incompetence or oversight to be excused, rather the nation’s founding documents ought to be a symbolic reminder of the need for sole loyalty – which in moving beyond politics is a right relationship with God.
Love thy neighbour
At the very same moment that this article is being written, legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in Australia is being passed through the national Parliament. The often-ugly debate leading up the postal survey into this matter has exposed the worst of both sides with violent attacks on Christians, and religious groups using scare mongering tactics instead of making the case for traditional marriage.
For many individuals arguing to preserve traditional marriage, their identity has been caught up in the political debate rather than being one situated in Christ. With a growing divide between “Bible believing Christians” and “liberal Christian progressives” including on the interpretation of Scripture on matters of homosexuality, it really seems that more focus was drawn on the sexual identities of certain individuals rather than raising awareness toward the need of an ultimate identity open to all sexualities – an identity in Christ…
And likewise, the excessive amounts of band wagoning and virtue signalling from many seeking to change the definition of marriage highlights a staunch lack of integrity. Prior to the postal survey, many proponents of change rallied against conservative parliamentarians for considering voting against their constituents even if their electorates returned a majority ‘Yes’ result.
However, nothing much has been said toward the Western Sydney parliamentarians that have voted contrary to their electorate’s significant majority ‘No’ results. Such actions further the unhelpful premise ingrained in our society over the past decades that one’s sexuality forms the pinnacle of an individual’s identity.
Moving forward, the bigger question is not how churches will be impacted by such changes but rather as followers of Jesus – what will each of us will do to live lives of integrity that is centred on Christ rather than the left or right wings of politics?
Where’s our real home?
The Australian government has been facing growing calls to resettle the refugees from Manus Island into the country. Such calls have also been met with growing anti-immigration sentiments with many judgements and denigrative allegations cast on certain groups simply for their differing cultural backgrounds.
In recent years, the government’s decision to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees with nearly 78% of them being Christians has been attacked by both left-wing and right-wing activists. The favouring of Syrians from religious minorities namely Christians has drawn criticism from the left given their anti-Christian rhetoric and beliefs that the faith grants them additional “privileges” in society. On the other hand, some on the right have been staunch in their opposition in immigration from the Middle East on the unfounded basis, put simply because they are “all terrorists”.
Where does your identity lie?
The Bible makes a clear argument against the divisive nature of ‘identity politics’, something that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. championed as well. Our human identities ultimately don’t matter whether it be ethnicity, sexuality or culture because we are all equal human beings.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians chapter 3 verse 28) as written by the apostle Paul. We ought to avoid the divisive modern culture that judges people by one’s natural traits such as the colour of one’s skin or by one’s sexual orientation.
Similarly, the temptation lies in 21st century Western culture for individuals to identify themselves and others with a race or sexuality hence the impositions of divisive assumptions such as “the privilege of the straight Christian white male”. Let us pray that we act on the words of Reverend King that individuals ought to be held to account “by the content of their character” instead of the narratives arising from identity politics.
As followers of Jesus, let us be weary of attempts to divide our loyalty away from our identity in Christ. With Christmas and the New Year approaching, perhaps it is time to stop looking at the left or right for socio-political and cultural guidance but rather back towards the centre or even above the political spectrum which is the Cross.
Jesus is our passport that allows us to fly over the sinful and downfallen state of human power struggle (earthly politics) to a better future.
This article was first published at Christian Today on Thursday 21 December 2017.