The 2019 federal election is over and we can all go back to our normal lives – or can we? The past five weeks of election campaigning has brought to light a number of coined phrases by both the leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Bill Shorten and the leader of the Liberal Coalition Party (LNC) and current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Two of the most challenging phrases that dominated the political campaign rhetoric were the terms ‘True Believers’ and ‘Faith’ with the former being the catch-cry for Bill Shorten and the latter for Scott Morrison.
Mirroring the USA in their Presidential Elections, the 2019 federal election was very much about ‘leadership’ and ‘rhetoric’ as was the case with the ‘It’s Time’ (ALP 1972) and ‘Kevin 07’ (ALP 2007) slogans. But let’s not forget the rhetoric from the Coalition when the ‘Back in Black and Back on Track’ (1990s) was drummed into the electorates under Peter Costello. Did the constant reference to ‘True Believers’ and ‘Faith’ by the major Leaders show that both parties have gone back to their roots with their slogan efforts this year?
Scripture is very clear in that it draws a very strong link between a nation and its leadership – we need to pray for “kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1Timothy 2:2). In this respect, I argued the case as an apologist during the election campaign that it is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote and to vote for leaders who promote Christian principles. Candidates or policies that violate the Bible’s commands for life, family, freedom, marriage, or faith should never be supported (Proverbs 14:34).
As a former Prime Ministerial adviser in the first term of the Howard government (2 March 1996) when Australia elected a coalition government ending 13 years of Labor rule, I argued that every Christian needs to be in the public arena to some extent, and often challenged, between drafting, policies for government which were either morally or ethically questionable or in violation of biblical scripture.
Who then are the ‘true believers’ Bill Shorten was ‘preaching’ to during the election campaign? Were they ‘disciples’ in the biblical sense or mere ‘paid-up’ party members? Historically, many will recall the 1993 federal election victory speech by Paul Keating at the Bankstown Sports Club when he said, in his inimitable style,
“Well, this is the sweetest victory of all – this is the sweetest. This is a victory for the true believers, the people who in difficult times have kept the faith and to the Australian people going through hard times – it makes their act of faith all that much greater.”
What did Bill Shorten say when he conceded defeat on Saturday night 18 May 2019 when he took to the stage to give his concession speech on election night? Not surprising he alluded to Keating’s speech,
“I wish we could have won for the true believers, for our brothers and sisters in the mighty trade union movement.”
Did Paul Keating and now Bill Shorten refer to ‘true believers’ and ‘faith’ in the biblical sense or an ideology – a cause? I suspect with much confidence that it was the latter. Unfortunately, Shorten made ‘class warfare’ an issue ignoring Keating’s promise that,
“It will be a long time before somebody tries to put one group of Australians over here and another over there.”
The constant reference to ‘true believers’ was very evident in the ALP campaign. In his address at the ALP Campaign Launch in Brisbane, Shorten opened with “On behalf of every true believer, I acknowledge the great P.J. Keating.” Shorten, in paying tribute to the ‘true believers’, was referring to an increasingly endangered species also known as traditional Labor voters: those who have a strong ‘faith’ in the ideals and values of the Australian Labor Party. Interestingly, the term was popularised by the 1987 television drama The True Believers, which portrayed the Labor Party after the Second World War.
When Shorten invoked the memory of 1993 and claimed the term for the Labor faithful, saying ‘this election is a battle for our generation of true believers,’ it was not surprising to see Paul Keating in the audience to receive the homage.
It soon became evident on election night that Labor’s ‘light on the hill’ was looking more like a candle in the wind. The phrase ‘light on the hill’ of course was coined by Ben Chifley in 1949 and which has resonated down the decades to sum up Labor’s commitment to the working man.
For any devotee to political literature, the book ‘The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements’ is a 1951 social psychology book by American writer Eric Hoffer, in which the author discusses the psychological causes of fanaticism. From my experience and observation I can attest to the ‘fanatical’ fervour of hardcore Labor supporters, or if you prefer ‘true believers.’
We may well ask, have the lights been dimmed for Labor’s true believers? Only time will tell as we wait and see what new ‘causes’ Labor will propose for the 2022 federal election. Clearly, the social engineering ‘causes’ of climate change, class warfare and gender fluidity, not to mention restrictions on religious freedom, along with alienating pensioners by closing down a concession that gives cash refunds for excess dividend imputation credits, will need to be re-addressed by any incoming Labor leader.
Conversely, what do we make of Scott Morrison’s constant reference to ‘I am a man of faith’ during the election campaign, in response to temptations by the media to have him acknowledge that all homosexuals will go to hell in reference to the Israel Folau tweets? He managed to dodge the question of whether he was sitting on the same ‘church pew’ with Israel Folau by simply declaring that same-sex marriage is the law of the land. A classic example of the fine line in trying to mix politics and religion.
After the election, one particular media headline said it all, ‘Liberals’ election ‘miracle’ surprises even the true blue-blooded believers’ which noted that at the Liberal Party victory reception, disbelief gave way to wholehearted celebration.
So, are Scott Morrison supporters self-proclaimed ‘Christians’ or ‘True Believers’?
Many would acknowledge that Christians are now a minority in the public square as we move closer and closer to living in a post-Christendom political climate. That said, Christians should not presume to possess any privileged public standing. We may well ask if Christians voted for the common good of the whole nation, or to defend their own Christian interests, or did they vote for a man of ‘faith’? I suspect Morrison took the view that he could appeal, where appropriate, to the Christian roots of our political system and resist the marginalisation of religion from public life, but he should never compromise his faith.
Statistically, Australia is still a ‘Christian’ society despite those claiming that it is secular. The 2016 census identified that 52.1% of Australians classify themselves ‘Christian’, the Australian Parliament continues to be opened in Prayer, and the two major denominations, Anglican and Catholic, account for 36% of the population. Conservatives seem to have taken the view that they have a critical role in the civic arena and must stop bowing down at the altar of anti-Christian public opinion and, instead, ensure that the issues of family, freedom and faith are hammered out on the anvil of public debate. Is this what pushed Morrison’s party over the victory line?
Clearly, the traditional ‘family unit’ in this election had been threatened by left-wing policies from various minor and socialist dominated parties by advocating Abortion, Gender Fluidity, Transgender Operations, and Surrogacy policies, not to mention limiting Freedom of Religion and Speech. The survival of the traditional family was surely seen by many as essential for the welfare of the young and the cohesion of society. Enid Lyons, the first woman elected to the Australian House of Representatives in Australia’s federal parliament, quoted King George V who said that ‘the foundation of a nation’s greatness is in the homes of its people’– the family.
Voters worldwide, not just in Australia, recognised that the Roman civilisation collapsed not because of economics or military might but because it ventured into pursuing false ends and pursuits – social policies that were either poorly thought out or just merely a threat to traditional family values. Voters on the conservative right held the view that they were to be ‘intolerant’ of whatever God does not ‘tolerate’, regardless of the popular opinion. The electorate did not ‘believe’ or trust the ‘Climate Change’ rhetoric espoused by Shorten, which lacked facts and budgetary costings.
Preparing to vote in any election means, inter alia, coming to grips with the role of political parties and the content of their policies. Christians are often uneasy with the very idea of political parties, but effective Christian citizenship means taking them seriously. We need to recognise the common misconception that ‘there’s no Christian view of politics’ and rather take the view that we need to abide by biblical-based Christian political principles, such as racial equality.
Whether we like them or not, political parties are now indispensable to representative democracy, and Christians should be committed to them, with many joining parties to improve the clarity and integrity of their convictions. Christians, conservatives, and biblical ‘true believers’ obviously examined the offerings from the major parties and reached their best judgement of which to support.
Did Scott Morrison get over the line thanks to self-proclaimed ‘Christians’ or True (Bible-based) Believers?
If 52 percent of the nation’s population claims to be Christian, why do we have so many abortions and out-of-wedlock births, and so much divorce? And why is homosexual marriage now the law of the land? In other words, if the ‘majority’ of the nation claims Christianity, shouldn’t that Christianity be reflected in the prevailing morals and practices? Or was it proclaimed on Saturday 18th May 2019?
Perhaps it is well worth noting that the problem in Australia is that many so-called Christians are simply defining their own Christianity. It is no secret that when you drill down, you find that many of the denominations in Australia have strayed away from biblical orthodoxy on sexual and other social issues. We’ve lost the cultural consensus that once held to a biblical ethic. So, on the hot-button issues concerning sexuality, a la Israel Folau, Christians are under attack and indeed ‘hated’ by a growing secular society. As Eric Hoffer noted in his book ‘The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements’ in 1951,
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents… “
If we are statistically a Christian nation, we aren’t one now. There are so many self-proclaimed Christians who really can’t answer simple questions about the basics of their faith. Interestingly, Bill Shorten had a Jesuit education but switched to Anglicanism, but apparently in name only, not practice, when he said “I don’t need a law to tell me that (gays are not hell-fodder).”
What then are the characteristics of a ‘true (Bible-believing) believer’? Do they speak from the Word of God (cf. Israel Folau), or are they only using worldly knowledge (“I go to church”)? I make no apologies but this question cannot be answered without invoking scripture. If you cannot accept Genesis 1:1, then ‘we have a problem, Houston.’
Scott Morrison was always the ‘preferred’ Prime Minister over Bill Shorten according to the polls, for what they are worth, and this became evident as even Labor voters expressed this preference whether ‘True Believers’ (for a cause) or ‘Bible-Believing Christians’ (based on faith).
Appropriately, I finish with a headline quote from The West Australian newspaper, Sunday, 19 May 2019 12:09 AM,
‘Federal Election 2019: Scott Morrison says he always believed in miracles as he claims election win’