In the weeks since Scott Morrison’s ascendancy to the Prime Ministership of Australia, there has been a lot of talk about his Christian faith. Much of that talk has come from Christians rejoicing that we have a Christian Prime Minister.

Morrison hails from the Pentecostal tradition, a tradition which, interestingly, started out with a strong sense of biblical justice, coming as it did out of the Azusa Street revivals in California in the early 1900s. Racial integration and the encouragement of women in leadership were some of the highlights of the early movement, in an era when racial segregation was rife and women didn’t have the right to vote. The Spirit seemed to be showing the new Pentecostal movement that all people are created equal, in the image of the Creator.

Scott Morrison1 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking at an event on 1st September. PICTURE: Timothy Tobing/DFAT (licensed under CC BY 2.0/image cropped)

 

"For someone to publicly proclaim their Christian faith is admirable, but to blindly support them just because of what they say is misguided. Talk is cheap, especially in politics. As someone once said, behaviour never lies."

What we have heard though from some Pentecostal preachers in the days since Morrison’s ascendancy to the top job in the land unfortunately shows a lack of thoughtfulness and intelligence that is far removed from the movement’s roots.

In a nutshell, what some of these preachers are doing (and it is a minority of them) is praising God that our new Prime Minister is a Christian and therefore should receive our support.

For someone to publicly proclaim their Christian faith is admirable, but to blindly support them just because of what they say is misguided. Talk is cheap, especially in politics. As someone once said, behaviour never lies.

One only has to look into history to see that calling yourself Christian doesn’t make you Christ-like. We need to remember that the South African apartheid governments were full of Bible-believing Christians, that the German Christians movement followed Hitler into the abyss of the destruction of Europe in the name of nationalism, and no less than 80 per cent of white Evangelicals in the United States still support Donald Trump despite his endorsement of sexual assault, his constant lies and his emotional immaturity.

The words of God in the Bible call nations to justice. A quick look at the scathing words of the Old Testament prophets calling out Israel for neglecting justice and oppressing the poor will show us that. That tradition is continued in the life and teaching of Jesus. In the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, we see the only picture of the last judgment in all of the gospels. It is a parable which seems to describe how the nations are going to be judged. In a passage that is confronting for every Western nation, we see that the Jesus we claim to follow identities so closely with the poor that he says that when we do something for them, we are doing it for Jesus himself. Likewise, when we don’t love the poor, we are not loving Jesus.

God calls the nations to justice, not to words saying we are Christian. That is not to cast aspersions on the Prime Minister’s personal faith. There is no reason to doubt his sincerity, just as there wasn’t when, in his maiden speech to Parliament in 2008, he said so eloquently that the Christian duty is to care for the poor. But as the first epistle of John tells us, we are to love not just in words, but in actions and in truth. And if the Prime Minister’s actions are ones which show disregard for the poor, as they did so terribly in his treatment of people desperately seeking asylum in this country, then he is to be publicly rebuked, not praised for being a Christian. When we see the actions of leaders who claim the name of Christ not matching their words, the words of Jesus ring down through the ages: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, yet do not do what I say.”

It is the actions taken for others that defines the Christian character of anyone, let alone a Prime Minister. Sadly, this is not what some Christian leaders are publicly proclaiming. As The Guardian reported a couple of weeks after Morrison became PM, many Pentecostal congregations have been told that Morrison’s ascension was from God and that we need to rejoice that he has made a public stand for Christian freedoms and has promised to keep doing so.

Unfortunately, this is where so many Christians misunderstand the Christian mandate in the public sphere. When we mix Christian faith with politics, especially with a particular political ideology, our priorities become skewed. We inevitably come to support the policies of our political ideology, regardless of its policies, rather than allow our faith to shape that ideology. And we do it in the misguided belief that we are actually doing the latter.

Christians are never called to fight for our own freedoms in society; we are called to fight for justice for others. Whenever Christian faith tries to align itself with power, alarm bells need to ring very loudly.

"We are called to speak prophetically for justice for those who are disenfranchised in our society. As a friend of mine said recently, the people that Jesus called out quite publicly and harshly were those who had power and privilege, claimed to follow God, but made the lives of the vulnerable worse. We need to do the same, whether our Prime Minister is a Christian, an atheist or whatever beliefs he or she holds."

We are called to speak prophetically for justice for those who are disenfranchised in our society. As a friend of mine said recently, the people that Jesus called out quite publicly and harshly were those who had power and privilege, claimed to follow God, but made the lives of the vulnerable worse. We need to do the same, whether our Prime Minister is a Christian, an atheist or whatever beliefs he or she holds.

Supporting our Prime Minister, regardless of which party he or she belongs to, simply because they are a Christian, is ill-founded, irrational and unChristian. Calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you Christlike. It's the policies that the current Prime Minister puts into place that will matter.

The current case of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is a strong case in point. Recently she gave a speech to the United Nations in which she stated that the one concept that she wants to base New Zealand society around is kindness. Her government is already putting that into practise by housing their homeless people and increasing international aid. Ardern describes herself as agnostic, but policies like these are ones that make would make God smile.

Let’s not be so naive to think that just because our new Prime Minister is a Christian that we should therefore automatically vote for him. That, of course, goes for anyone in politics professing Christian faith, no matter which side they’re on. 

God is not a Liberal; nor is God with Labor or the Greens or anyone else. God is on the side of justice and love. That is what we are called to vote for and support in our nation’s leaders.