Australian politics: Archbishops critical of atheist PM

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Australia holds a national election and so far the campaign has focused on the perceived flaws of the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. She’s an unmarried, childless, co-habitator with — as some see them — pendulous earlobes, and all that counts against the PM say her opponents.


The Australian reports on three opponents in its story Perth’s Catholic Archbishop stirs fears about atheism.

“I had no intention of attacking Julia Gillard at all. My point was the future, not the present – that if the people who don’t subscribe to any religion get stronger, we might have a repeat of what happened in Europe, where the church was sidelined,” he said.

The archbishop’s comments follow attacks by two other church leaders in recent months – Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen [referring it appears to his Easter sermon] and Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Cardinal George Pell [“Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating: Nazism, Stalinism, Pol Pot-ery, mass murder, abortion and broken relationships – all promoted by state-imposed atheism”]- who warned against atheism.

The Perth archbishop sparked yesterday’s debate with a statement he sent to The West Australian newspaper on July 22, which was not published until yesterday. Titled “Comments on the forthcoming election”, it said many Christians were concerned “someone who does not believe in God may not endorse the Christian traditions of respect for human life, for the sanctity of marriage and the independence of churches.

But another archbishop disagreed with his peers,

Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft has clashed with his Catholic counterpart over Julia Gillard’s atheism.

He warned it was “unhelpful and untrue” to suggest the Christian faith had a monopoly on moral integrity.

The Anglican leader cautioned against making simplistic assessments of religious beliefs in an election context and said Ms Gillard had assured the electorate she would respect people with religious convictions.

“Any statement which portrays the Christian faith as having some type of exclusivity to be the sole arbiter on matters of moral integrity and just policy-making are unhelpful and untrue,” Archbishop Herft told The Weekend Australian. “Christians need to remind themselves that those who do not profess the Christian faith are still capable of adopting an ethical and moral framework which assists in public policy decision-making for the common good.”

Is it fair to say, based on these remarks, that the archbishops are making political statements to their flock? Not that it could be imagined in this country, if there were an atheist running for president is it conceivable that an archbishop would stop and declare atheists hate God?

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3 Responses to "Australian politics: Archbishops critical of atheist PM"
  1. "Christians need to remind themselves that those who do not profess the Christian faith are still capable of adopting an ethical and moral framework which assists in public policy decision-making for the common good."

    And Christians also need to remind themselves that those who claim a Christian identity do not necessarily advocate politics that are in accord with the gospel of Jesus Christ, as recent history shows. A "war on terror" wrought in part on the basis of lies and false information, the economic meltdown brought on by deregulation and a blind eye to greed, open season on social welfare programs and the introduction of xenophobic hate speech into debates on immigration policy hardly reflect the Lord's ethic of being truthful, behaving nonviolently, not seeking retaliation, not laying up earthly treasures, caring for the least of his brothers and sisters, and loving all people, even enemies. The world could do with a whole lot less of that sort of "Christianity," and much more with actual practice of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    When it comes to "being a Christian," Matthew 7:16 rings loud and clear: "You will recognize them by their fruits."

    Gregory Orloff

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  2. Alas, Prime Minister Gillard, just like many of the churches in Australia, opposes marriage equality. She is far from enlightened on social justice issues. Odd that the Anglican and Roman church leaders don't support her.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

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  3. Its worth noting that Peter Jensen's sermon was given months before Julia Gillard became PM. His were general comments about atheism and not made in the context of the election. The headline "Archbishops critical of atheist PM" does not apply to him. When asked he has refused to say that Julia Gillard's atheism shoud determine a christian's vote

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