Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Bringing National To Its Knees.

Take It To The Lord In Prayer: Adding to the internal pressures applied by National’s own right-wing  Christian MPs, is the rise of the even more religiously conservative New Conservative Party. With the latter rumoured to be stripping thousands of Christian votes away from National, is it any wonder Judith Collins fell to her knees in the chapel and began an earnest conversation with God!

WHAT IS WRONG with the picture of Judith Collins at prayer? In her maiden speech to Parliament, Collins testified to her belief in God. Presumably, then, her Christian faith is a longstanding facet of her political persona. Why should anyone take exception to the images of her kneeling in prayer.

There are many reasons for New Zealanders to furrow their brows at these images.

First and foremost, as any reasonably well-educated Christian knows, such public displays of piety are frowned upon by Jesus himself. It took an old-fashioned Sunday school graduate like Winston Peters only a few moments to locate the relevant verses from the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

It is curious that Judith Collins appears to be unfamiliar with these verses since they precede what is, arguably, the most quoted passage from the New Testament – The Lord’s Prayer. Certainly, a Christian more familiar with Jesus’s teachings would have hesitated to pray in circumstances where her actions would, inevitably, be captured by the news media and broadcast across the entire country. Does praying alone in an empty chapel while the cameras rolled constitute going into your room and closing the door? Or, is it more akin to praying on the street corners to be seen by others?

Even those New Zealanders whose feet have never crossed the threshold of a church or a Sunday school would likely have reacted uneasily to Collin’s display. In part this is a reflection of New Zealand society’s rapidly increasing secularisation. In the 2018 Census, only 37 percent of the population were prepared to declare themselves Christian. Forty years ago, by way of contrast, the fraction of New Zealanders declaring themselves Christian was well in excess of two-thirds. The unavoidable conclusion? That the overt expression of religious belief is fast becoming unusual in New Zealand. Judith Collins praying in the pose of an altar-panel saint looked odd because it was odd.

For political secularists, Collins behaviour is especially objectionable. It has long been a central tenet of New Zealand’s democratic political system that Church and State remain strictly separated. As far back as Nineteenth Century, this principle was reflected in New Zealand legislation. The Education Act of 1877 clearly stipulated that the provision of public education in New Zealand was to be “free, compulsory and secular”.

The only period in New Zealand political history when a citizen’s membership of a specific Christian denomination became an excuse for something pretty closely resembling persecution was during, and immediately after, the First World War. New Zealand’s wartime government was dominated by the right-wing Reform Party leader and Prime Minister, Bill Massey. A member of the rabidly Protestant Orange Order, Massey regarded New Zealand Catholics as both a religious and political threat.

Massey’s bigotry found strong institutional support in the Protestant Political Association. Formed in 1919, the PPA worked hand-in-glove with the Reform Party to maintain the ascendancy of Protestantism in New Zealand. They were especially concerned to block the rise of the NZ Labour Party. Formed in 1916, Labour was strongly supported by New Zealand’s large Irish-Catholic community.

The most notorious instance of religious bigotry in this fractious period of New Zealand history came in 1922 when the Catholic Assistant-Bishop of Auckland, James Liston, was put on trial for sedition for recalling in a speech he delivered on St Patrick’s Day the Irish patriots who fell in the 1916 Easter Rising. The all Protestant jury acquitted him, but could not refrain from noting that Liston had committed “a grave indiscretion”.

On the Left, the vexed question of how to integrate Catholic schools into New Zealand’s secular public education system remained a cause of considerable contention right up until the early 1970s. It was in hopes of bringing this contentious issue to a favourable conclusion that the quasi-official Catholic newspaper “The Tablet” came out openly for the Labour Party in the general election of 1972. The reconciliation effected between Catholics and socialist secularists by the creation of “Integrated Schools” was, however, short-lived. The rise of feminism and the ongoing campaign for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion pretty much sundered orthodox Catholicism from the secular labour movement.

The success of the so-called “new social movements” – most especially in relation to their expansion of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights – threw the principle of Church/State separation into particularly sharp relief. Increasingly, Christianity retreated into the theology of evangelical fundamentalism, or, in the case of the Catholic Church, rigid doctrinal orthodoxy. Liberal Christianity was in full retreat as the principal protestant denominations turned their faces from the agitation for the creation of gay and lesbian ministers and the right of LGBTQ+ Christians to marry.

For conservative Christians, the willingness of the secular state to legislate over the objections of the churches, had made it necessary for the churches to take control of the state. The most obvious means of securing such control is to increase the influence of conservative Christian morality in the parties of the Right. If conservative parties could be made beholden to conservative Christian voters, then, upon taking office, their legislators could re-enshrine the moral certainties the secularists have so wickedly overturned.

Thanks to groups like the Maxim Institute, this seeding of the socially-conservative Right with Christian candidates has been proceeding steadily for some time. Maxim’s chosen vessel, the NZ National Party, has, for more than fifteen years, been choosing evangelical fundamentalist Christians to represent the party in safe seats. This has progressed to the point where Christian support, if not already crucial to the success of an aspiring leader, is fast becoming so. The recent departure of so many of National’s liberal MPs, and the projected loss of still more in the general election already underway, seems certain to strengthen the influence of National’s Christian Right.

Adding to the internal pressures applied by National’s own Christian MPs, is the rise of the even more conservative New Conservative Party. With the latter rumoured to be stripping thousands of Christian votes away from National, is it any wonder Judith Collins fell to her knees in the chapel and began an earnest conversation with God!


This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 6th October 2020.

33 comments:

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It's interesting, I think we have maybe to religious parties in my electorate? One of which must be funded reasonably well as they have an office on "high street". And the local candidate has a Dutch name – according to my wife who should know. Although I'm not voting for them, partly because their sign blew down in a gale recently, and I figure if I can't organise a sturdy sign, they can't organise a country. :)

I had no idea that Collins was overtly religious though. That passage from the Bible is often quoted on the blogs I frequent, usually to dismiss religious trolls. But if it's known, it's honoured more in the breach than the observance by fundamentalists – but then their income depends on being obviously devout.
Interesting though Collins'picture doesn't appear very often in the working class part of my electorate, only in the middle-class bits it seems to me. Probably very wise.

Andrew Nichols said...

I am a practising believing disciple of Christ, and a progressive Green. This Collins at paryer shot had all the authenticity and subtlety of Trumps bible stunt. My faith defines me but a church coopted by politics for politics is a blasphemy.

David Stone said...

Whatever the veracity of Judith's faith, and however she envisaged the political effect of allowing this photo opp, I think she has made a serious misjudgment. She ought to have recognised how it would look to the majority of the country whether religious or agnostic. It looks like a phoney pose.
What it seems to me to show is that under the focus of the leadership position she is now in she is demonstrating much less perspicacity than I would have imagined she possessed.
Realistically this election is going to be a historical landslide.
D J S

Max Ritchie said...

The Ratana connection to the Labour Party is relevant too, in the interests of balance. To truly separate church and state the leaders, of all parties, should stop trekking to Ratana Pa. But back to Judith Collins, she was invited to pray by the vicar. If she’d declined that would have become the story.

Kat said...

So it's now come down to squabbling over how the National party furniture Collins was charged with saving is carried out. I would seem the National ship binoculars are already trying to bring into focus 2023. I doubt Collins, even with deep furrowed knees from the pew footstep, will be still at the helm. Maybe that is what she prays for.

bsprout said...

It does seem as though Judith is taking pages out of Trump's book and the praying stunt seems like her version of Trump holding up an upside down bible. It was purely political and hardly a demonstration of sincere piety.

Anonymous said...

As an interesting trivia point, there is actually no correlation (outside South Auckland) between the religious fervour of an electorate and its voting patterns. The South Island is more atheistic than the North, and that includes both safe Labour and safe National areas.

(Fun fact: the two most atheistic seats in the country are Wellington Central, and, more unexpectedly, West Coast-Tasman).

sumsuch said...

Isn't Collins laughable, to both our politics and religion. She'll lose votes for that bullsh. Or we are as dead as America.

sumsuch said...

Whereas most Americans are numpties about anything but their own lives, we have the complete audience to laugh our arses out at Collins's bullshit.

These people enter where demo-cracy departs.

I'll say, like 'Carthago delenda est', our heart lies in the neediest (we've neglected for 40 years at the least).

Trev1 said...

I think a reminder of Christian values is long overdue. New Zealand is poised at the top of a very slippery slope. This country could quickly degenerate into a nasty, amoral swamp.

sumsuch said...

Her Christianity goes along with battering people who don't deserve it. Par for the course. Or, despicable.

You were a bit behind me re the cretanity of christianity. That it's necessary to fight unreason wherever you see it. Good story and all. 8 years to prevent our extinction and even that's a laugh. Full war on rationalisation. I've had an idiot for a brother for 35 years.

Sure you will give us a xmas story soon, why we will go over the fall.

Lets keep to the heart of H.s.s.'s best parts.

John Hurley said...

I bet playing the Muslim call to prayer on RNZ gave them a thrill. As Guyon says "you've got to keep pushing the uglies"?

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Chris
You know the Bible, you know the fundamentals of Christian belief, and you know the history of social democracy, which is a good basis on which to start commenting on the relationship between church and state, or more broadly the spiritual and temporal realms.
But you seem to think that we have moved on from the time, in the era to the end of the seventeenth century when religion was inseparable from politics (including the politics of class) or the following two centuries when religion and politics remained closely linked albeit notionally distinct. Well we have moved on, but the move has been one of degrees only, and the left continues to pay a price for its failure to understand or come to terms with the role of religion in society.
Basically, social democracy (the Labour parties) grew out of the non-conformist churches and chapels (the Salvation Army was a particular influence in New Zealand) and in the antipodes managed to reach a modus vivendi with the Catholic church which allowed the working class Irish Catholic community to throw its weight behind the social democratic and labour movement.
Elsewhere, in Europe for example, the left, particularly the Marxist left, adopted a staunchly anti-clerical and more pertinently anti-religious stand, which led to the catastrophe in Spain, the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy, and ultimately the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
All this should have given the New Zealand left pause for thought, but it hasn't. Like the Soviet Marxists, the left sees religion as its natural enemy, and that is the end of it. It has departed so far from its origins that it no longer comprehends that social democracy had its Genesis in the gospel, and will not endure without the tacit or active support of religious believers.
I doubt that there is a single Christian who seriously thinks that either Donald Trump or Judith Collins are devout Christians. But many of them will still vote for the one who makes a show of respect for the faith, rather than for the people who make no secret of the fact that they want to see religion and all its values consigned to the dustbin of history.
As in the United States, the electorate is faced with an invidious choice between the neo-liberal left and the pseudo-conservative right. I am strongly of the opinion that they should vote for neither, but among those who do vote I can see the logic of Christians who say "better those who pay lip service to Christianity than those who would have it destroyed".

greywarbler said...

That's very informative Chris. And troubling. My young adults (40s) were taken by Bill English's 'social investment' talk. I pointed out that in his term, the funding for a helpline was taken from its incumbents and went to an organisation involving his wife, who like him has stroing conservative christian views. That is troubling too, especially when you see the resiling of the conservatives from enabling personal decision to restricting, with religious control over human interaction, along with their militancy around sexuality.

Social investment c.2016 - NZIER public discussion paper –Defining social investment, Kiwi-style -  The current New Zealand Government is following a “social investment” approach to improving the lives of disadvantaged New Zealanders.The background to this approach is widespread agreement that for a small proportion of New Zealanders, improved economic performance has not been reflected in improved livingstandards and life chances, despite years of active policy interventions and considerable social spending. Further, there is limited evidence about the impact of current programmes.
https://nzier.org.nz/static/media/filer_public/

* 2 Sept.2016 https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/312421/data-driven-social-welfare-policy-lacks-humanity-economist - The government's approach to social welfare has come under fire, with a top economist [Shamubeel Eaqub] fearing the system could lack empathy and compassion.

* 30 June 2017 - Amy Adams speech on Social Investment : https://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/changing-lives-our-social-investment-approach
* 12 July 2017 - https://www.treasury.govt.nz/information-and-services/state-sector-leadership/cross-agency-initiatives/social-investment

* 16 Oct, 2019 5:53pm - NZHerald Business - https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12276648
Bill English co-founds Wellington start-up that measures impact of
philanthropic investment
* Feb.20/20 https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/409968/review-social-wellbeing-agency-to-replace-social-investment-approach

2017: Needed as seen by clear-sighted non-religious-myopia in the summary to the Child Poverty Action Group report. https://www.cpag.org.nz/assets/171208%20CPAG%20further%20fraying%20of%20the%20welfare%20safety%20WEB.pdf
...Full reform of the welfare system requires, among other changes, individual entitlement to benefits, alignment of single and married rates, and higher thresholds for earning extra income. The task is significant and requires boldness, but the outcome will be much improved lives for the many children and their families who currently barely subsist at the margins of society, and also for the many who would otherwise fall through the holes of the frayed safety net. The gains of a fully functional welfare system will benefit all of society with a more productive, more harmonious and more just New Zealand.

I can't see National bringing themselves to change their rigid, condemning ways to people who are struggling largely because of neolib governments' steering this country onto the rocks. One favourite quote applies: "My grandfather's a little forgetful, but he likes to give me advice. One day, he took me aside and left me there." Ron Richards (producer d.2009)

Brendan McNeill said...

Chris

Whether Judith is guilty of transgressing the gospel’s injunction to ‘pray in secret’ is an open question particularly given Parliament still begins each session with a public prayer (of sorts), as do most church services.

There is a pervasive belief in our culture that people of ‘no faith’ are somehow capable of impartial objectivity whereas believing Christians are not; to express faith in God exposes an implicit bias, and therefore disqualifies a person from public office. The idea that people of no faith are without ideology or bias is complete nonsense. Without exception, everyone has their world view shaped by someone or something, politicians most especially. Why seek to enter parliament if not to see your version of the ‘good’ and the ‘just’ progressed in our nation?

Perhaps your nervousness about orthodox Christians entering parliament is based upon the realisation that socialism, with its focus on the collective, and depreciation of the individual is at odds with a biblical understanding of human dignity, and consequently human liberty, that is at the foundation of Western civilisation.

Politics is downstream from culture, and as you point out, the number of people in New Zealand professing to be Christian is in free fall. It is inevitable that people without faith in God will instead look to the State to provide. This should warm the heart of every socialist, as the cultural shift becomes increasingly expressed in the political sphere. Should we continue in this direction, with Kiwi’s trading liberty for ‘security’ we will eventually find ourselves with neither.

The Barron said...

The only thing that could be worse than scheming for 20 years to lead a political party only to find out your style of politics has gone out of fashion is the realization that you were never in fashion and your unpopularity within your party and the voting public may be attributed to your personality and transparent political tricks.
Just as a side note: After the first debate when she said her husband is Samoan, Mutch McKay thought this showed a softer side of Judith Collins. Correspondents in the Samoan Observer dismissed her as using her husbands ethnicity as a shield against accusations of racism. Also to set the record straight, Samoa went into lockdown after NZ and the reason that they insisted on Covid tests before residents flew to Samoa was because after the measles out brake they knew that they lacked the testing, respirators and hospital facilities for arrivals with Covid, they are of course a developing country. Collins used Samoa to justify a policy of not letting New Zealanders on planes without a test, which would mean giving NZ citizens in places like Ecuador or Peru a death sentence in overcrowded under-resourced health systems.
I use this as an example of the disingenuous and exploitative nature of Collins. The outcome of her Lady Madonna Sunday morning creeping like a nun act will simply see how they run.

Anonymous said...

I was not going to vote this time around but after seeing her praying I thought you two faced bitch and I have know voted.

Unknown said...

Brendon
" The idea that people of no faith are without ideology or bias is complete nonsense." I agree entirely with this. But I also believe
that whether by a "belief" instilled in someone's mind during their formative years (2/3/4 and5 yr old), or adopted in adolescence
or adulthood, it requires having "faith" in and a "belief" in something for which there is no tangible evidence. And then in many cases holding that "belief" in dominion over all decision making and all issues whether there is scientific evidence for some of them that must be contradicted or not. The faith holds ultimate authority over the actions decisions and life of the devotee.
Something fundamental has to be effected in the devotee's mind to allow this to happen. something that places the unknown and unknowable in ascendence above the known and knowable .
I don't know that there is not a God. But I do know that I don't know, and I know that no one else knows either, or ever has known . But I also know that the vast majority of humanity has believed in something intangible for most of human history. This does not make me think that there must be something out there to believe in , it makes me think that we are very much less a reasoning animal than we imagine.And prone to believe what we want to believe rather than what we can reason.
In many cases where christian belief is consistent with the right and fair and reasonable choice of action which it usually is if the christian concerned is a decent human being for a start, the right decision will be made.
Where the Christian is the American Secretary of State, and his fundamental Christian belief is that there is a "rapture" due to happen in the world where much of humanity will perish, and he himself is chosen to help bring this about the result of his faith may not be quite so admirable and we would be better off without him.
D J S

Andrew Nichols said...

1. Max Ritchie wrote : "But back to Judith Collins, she was invited to pray by the vicar. If she’d declined that would have become the story."

If she was authentic, she would have done it without the photo.

2. Brendan McNeill wrote "Perhaps your nervousness about orthodox Christians entering parliament is based upon the realisation that socialism, with its focus on the collective, and depreciation of the individual is at odds with a biblical understanding of human dignity, and consequently human liberty, that is at the foundation of Western civilisation."

A "biblical understanding", a cult of the in individual that is a capitalist construct of the last 200 yrs since the likes of John Darby, designed to legitimise the society of the time and little to do with the near 1800 yrs of Christian theology before that.


Geoff Fischer said...

" socialism, with its focus on the collective, and depreciation of the individual is at odds with a biblical understanding of human dignity, and consequently human liberty, that is at the foundation of Western civilisation."
I don't know where you get that from Brendan. Have you ever lived in the bush with your mates, where everything is shared, and most things held in common? If so, were you conscious an absence of dignity, or liberty? Did that way of life strike you as being in conflict with God's plan for humanity?
Do you have a problem with Acts 2:44 "All the believers were together and had everything in common."?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"There is a pervasive belief in our culture that people of ‘no faith’ are somehow capable of impartial objectivity whereas believing Christians are not; to express faith in God exposes an implicit bias..."

"No there isn't."

Now there are two bald assertions.

Your problem Chris was to forget that Brendan thinks that anyone who comments on Christianity needs to be "theologically qualified" – which means of course anyone who agrees with him.

Indeed Brendan it is you people – the "Jesus as capitalist" mob that complain so much about today's materialistic society with its lack of spiritual values, and yet you are the ones who have brought it to fruition. And I might say mostly benefited from it.
Didn't Jesus say in Matthew 6:24 that you can't serve both God and money? Did he not warn against having too much of it in Luke 12:15?
I'm not quite sure which of the 40,000+ Protestant sects you belong to Brendan but Christian socialism has a long and honourable tradition, so presumably not one of the ones from which it arose?
I guess you're more of a John D Rockefeller Christian, who is happy to have his workers starving, and the government send in the troops to burn their tents and kill their women and children.
Oh well, no doubt as we are now in the end times, you people will be ascending to heaven and the rest of us will be thankfully rid of you. :)

John Hurley said...

Your instincts were correct again Chris. One of BT's gripes was corporate/ left-modernist collusion meant drowning alternative opinions.
https://journals.sagepub.com/eprint/AR7WSSURWMNXRA3IN5UB/full

Nick J said...

Seems to me that the current orthodoxy on the Left is that being white, aged and male means you are not worthy of any opinion, if you are religious that you are obviously an idiot, and Conservative, definitely a fascist. All three you are damned.

I'm two out of three, so I'm obviously not worth a toss. Ignore me at your peril, I'm the Brexiteer, I'm the Deplorable. My (our) vote counts.

Also, you wokesters harp on about the fascists and camps and name us after those bastards my fathers generation took down. How is it wokesters and their fellow travellers and acolytes don't get called Maoist or Stalinist with all the opprobrium and the blood of millions that entailed?

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Andrew

I have occasionally wondered if there are any Christian supporters of the Green Party. I do understand why you might choose them for their environmental policies, given the Genesis creation mandate, maybe their economic policies, but their social policies?

ALL of the Green Party MP’s voted for what amounts to full term abortion on demand, they all support liberalisation of euthanasia, they all voted to liberalise prostitution, they all voted in favour of gay marriage just to name a few issues that stand in stark opposition to an orthodox understanding of Scripture.

I’m genuinely curious as to how you square that circle?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah Brendan, the biblical position on gay marriage, abortion, and even prostitution is a little more muddy than you would think. Obviously you are less theologically qualified than you thought. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Seems to me that the current orthodoxy on the Left is that being white, aged and male means you are not worthy of any opinion"

Of course it is. That's why the country is in general run by old, white, men

Brendan McNeill said...

@ Unknown

Most Christians are people of good will and are committed to the flourishing of all individuals regardless of their race, preferences and attributes. Where we may disagree is what flourishing looks like, but that is common to the human condition amongst people of faith and no faith.

I don’t know any Christians who are working to facilitate the apocalypse, and I doubt the American Secretary of State is an exception. That would be a bizarre proposition.

@ Geoff Fischer

There is a huge chasm between collective shared experiences undertaken voluntarily and the compulsion of socialism.

Acts 2:44 was a voluntary outward expression of an inner life change brought about by faith in Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. By way of contrast, Socialism is the external imposition of conformity by State fiat.

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Brendan
You have put your finger on the political dilemma of the Christian community. You either vote for the left which promotes prostitution, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia and hedonistic drug use, or you support the right which stands for the exploitation of labour, despoliation of the environment, and unprovoked war upon the poorest nations of the earth. (In fact, in the contemporary context, the distinction is no longer that clear-cut, and supporters of all manner and kinds of iniquity may be found on both the right and the left of politics).
So would an explicitly Christian party solve this dilemma? Unfortunately not. It has been tried more than once, and the result have been Christian parties which ignominiously expire amid sex scandals and bitter political in-fighting.
Perhaps God is trying to tell us something. Perhaps He would rather that Christians had nothing to do with the present political system. For me, however, there is no "perhaps" about it.
Electoral politics is all about trying to impose one's own choice of leader on others. That is not the Christian way. As Christians we choose our own leaders and constituency (on one level minister and church congregation, on another Christ and the Christian communion) and we do not allow anyone to over-rule our choice on the basis of the claim that they constitute a majority of the population.
So don't vote. Don't think you have a Christian right or duty to impose your own choice of evil (not even "the lesser evil") on others through the ballot box.

Nick J said...

How wonderful GS, we have shared irrelevance. I'm assuming that you are older, male and probably white. As Leftists let's fall in line and accept that our opinions must be worth a tin of the proverbial.

By way of compensation we can both sit back and luxuriate in our power, our domination of all positions of power. Jeez it's great, all opprobrium must be due, let's face it as a group we have never done anything for anybody else.

Geoff Fischer said...

Brendan McNeill wrote:
"Acts 2:44 was a voluntary outward expression of an inner life change brought about by faith in Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. By way of contrast, Socialism is the external imposition of conformity by State fiat.

It doesn't matter what name you give to it. Faith in Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit caused disciples to have all goods in common. No private property. So there is your model. Follow it, bring good to the world, do His will on earth, and no Marxist, socialist or leftist will dare to criticize you, because you will have put them to shame.

Unknown said...

Good and bad people no more align with religious or agnostic than they do with left and right. Good bad and indifferent are evenly distributed throughout.
D J S

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Geoff

Jesus did say ‘my Kingdom is not of this world’ and many Christians refuse to vote on that basis, however I happen to believe that representative democracy, and the bloodless transfer of power is superior to any other system we have devised so far, and so I’m glad to support it.

Your description of the left’s truly awful social policies is fair, albeit as an employer, and someone who knows many employers, I have not met any who are ‘exploiting their employees’ or any ‘right’ parties that are advocating for ‘despoiling the environment’ although no doubt they do exist.

I don’t view elections as an attempt to impose power on others, but rather a competition of ideas as to what policies best make for human flourishing, and (dare I say it) the common good. That’s not to say politicians don’t wield power, and at times abuse it.

Those of a more conservative Christian persuasion grasp the reality of human frailty, and the need to ensure all policy programs take that into account. We cannot legislate the human condition away, or change it. We have to accommodate it. I find the left however is more utopian in its thinking, and shapes its policy platforms accordingly. That said, these days so much of politics has been pitched at our most base instincts that it is hard to remain hopeful in this domain.

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora Brendan.
Some politicians believe that by definition employers cannot exploit their employees because they pay the market rate, which is a fair price set by the supply and demand for labour.
So even if you pay the minimum legal wage, which is less than a living wage, while still making a healthy profit, in their eyes you are not exploiting labour.
Some go so far as to argue that if you pay less than the legal minimum wage, say when employing migrant workers, you are still subject to the law of supply and demand so you are still not guilty of exploitation.
Workers, of course, take a different view.
You are probably right to argue that no party explicitly advocates environmental destruction, but the adverse effect that right-wing politicians and parties can have on the environment is seen, for example, in the deforestation of the Amazon basin and Indonesian rain forests as well as environmental effects of unbridled development much closer to home.
Politicians advocate "public safety" and deliver dictatorship, or they advocate "economic development" and deliver social dislocation and environmental destruction. We have to pay attention to the actual consequences of their policies, as well as the sophistry which is used to promote those policies.
When Christians try to ensure that right-wing parties and politicians are able to exercise state power over me and my whanau, they strain the bonds of Christian fellowship almost to breaking point.
You say "I don’t view elections as an attempt to impose power on others, but rather a competition of ideas as to what policies best make for human flourishing, and (dare I say it) the common good."
Elections are precisely an attempt to gain power over others. That is why all those who participate become so excited by the process and are so affected by the outcome. There is, to be sure, a hot blooded "competition of ideas" which is a prelude to election, but that competition is hardly a healthy or certain way to arrive at "the common good". It is far better, and to my mind more Christian, for us to sit down with Te Paipera Tapu, and decide in a collaborative way how we can best arrange our relations with other members of the human race.