Removing Prayer from National Parliament
3 August 2022 Hits:1038
You may have caught the news that the Senate’s new president, Sue Lines, has said she would like to see the practice of opening the houses of Parliament with Christian prayers ‘gone.’
The custom of saying the Lord’s Prayer to open Parliamentary sessions in the Upper and Lower House of Federal Parliament has been a tradition since 1901. In recent years, an acknowledgement of traditional owners has also been included, the one Senator Hanson walked out of last week.
When the tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer began, over 90% of Australians identified as Christian; at the last census, 43.9% acknowledged the Christian faith. And an increasing number of Australians, 38.9%, report having no religion.
Compelled to Pray
Senator Lines told The Australian, “On the one hand we’ve had almost every parliamentary leader applaud the diversity of the Parliament and so if we are genuine about the diversity of the Parliament we cannot continue to say a Christian prayer to open the day.” Some leaders in the Labor Party, such as senators Penny Wong, Don Farrell and Katy Gallagher, have said the recital of Christian prayers should stay.
As Senate President Sue Lines, an atheist, is compelled to recite Christian prayers, I reflected on this from personal experience. As an atheist, which I was until I converted to the Christian faith, how would I have felt about being compelled to pray? The answer was simple. I wouldn’t have appreciated it.
Furthermore, if Christians protested and said that I should pray, it would make me think even less of Christians. I empathise with Senator Lines’ position.
I believe an excellent way forward is a statement to be crafted and read that is based on the Golden Rule rather than the Lord’s Prayer:
“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
The Golden Rule is one of the oldest life truths known to the human race. Jesus taught it, but it predates him by almost two thousand years and is found in all twelve traditional world religions, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.
The Golden Rule was first found in ancient Egyptian literature and quoted by some of the greatest philosophers, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Philo. The age-old truth has now also been embraced by psychology. Modern social psychology refers to it as The Law of Reciprocity. When someone does something agreeable for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return.
Inclusion and Diversity
The principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated is the ultimate key to a fruitful and satisfying life. So why not create a statement encapsulating that truth and read it as an affirmation to open Parliamentary sessions in the Upper and Lower House of Federal Parliament? It would be a thoughtful framework for all decisions, and it makes a powerful statement of inclusion and diversity.
As much as I love The Lord’s Prayer, I wonder if this has become tokenistic or irrelevant to many people. I wonder about the efficacy of a prayer uttered by rote (or reluctance) rather than from the heart.
And Christians, let’s unite in prayer for Australia and our politicians ~ even those you didn’t vote for and don’t like. And more than anything, do to others what you would have them do to you.