Last Thursday I was tagged into a Facebook Post of Family Voice Australia[i], an organisation that promotes itself as “A Christian voice for family, faith & freedom.”
The post started with the words, “Dan Andrews’ Government is pushing to axe the Lord’s Prayer …” I’d like to suggest that an organisation purporting to be “A Christian voice” should use that voice to speak with respect and truth, both of which were missing from the post and ensuing thread of comments.
Getting Facts Right
Premier Daniel Andrews is NOT pushing to axe the Lord’s Prayer. This time the charge is being led by Crossbench Reason Party MP Fiona Patten. Last Wednesday, the State Government referred to the Lord’s Prayer to the procedures committee for review. Daniel Andrews is a Catholic and has said he was open to change.
The Lord’s Prayer is currently read in the Upper and Lower House in Federal Parliament and every state and territory parliament (except the ACT) at each opening sitting and has been since 1918. In recent years an acknowledgement of traditional owners has also been included which two Liberal MPs have refused to stand for because they’re Christians. Go figure!
When the tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer was started in 1918, over 90% of Australians identified as Christian. At the last census, 52.1% of Australians acknowledged the Christian faith. In Victoria, it’s slightly lower at 47.9%, and there’s an increasing number of Australians, 30% to be exact, who are reporting no religion. A third of these live in Victoria.
Please understand that I am not being critical of Family Voice Australia as a religious organisation, but I am concerned with some of the people and comments they attract.
The post about the Lord’s Prayer contained many inflammatory comments. Some people suggested that Daniel Andrews is an evil person, a wingnut, who has sold his soul and is destined for hell, “he certainly won’t enjoy the second death!”
While there were some excellent comments and discussion on the thread, a lot of it spewed unkindness, judgmentalism, and hatred, all of which are unbecoming of people who profess the Christian faith.
I’m not sure if anyone else noticed the irony, but individuals who were advocating for the Lord’s Prayer seemed to contradict its central themes. For example, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” There didn’t seem to be much forgiveness being exercised or deliverance from evil comments.
Another reader commented, “Our constitution isn’t multi faithed [sic.] It’s based on the Word of God only.” Ummmm. No, it isn’t. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution includes the only comment about religion, “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.” Section 116 does not apply to the states. Each state has its own constitution.
The Lord’s Prayer In Parliament?
So, what are my thoughts concerning the Lord’s prayer being read in Parliament? I summarised them in a comment on Family Voice Australia’s post:
“While I would certainly like to see The Lord’s Prayer retained as part of the Parliamentary Standing Orders, I do think it’s important how Christians / churches respond to these kinds of things. I’ve read some of the comments on this thread and, while some of them are measured, it appears to me that some reflect unkind and unchristian attitudes. I don’t think this endears the church to the broader community.
“It’s a tragedy that most people know the church’s position on ethical and moral issues, but they don’t understand the gospel because it’s been drowned out by all the other things they hear from us. This needs to change! People need to hear the gospel, the good news, about Jesus Christ. They need to know that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” as the apostle, Paul wisely wrote. I’d also encourage you to read Jeremiah 29:4-14 which outlines God’s plan for his people living in godless Babylon (much more godless than Australia is today). Amongst his instructions God tells his people to, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Let’s unite in prayer for Australia, for Melbourne, for our politicians ~ even the ones you didn’t vote for and don’t like. And more than anything “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Defend Faith Wisely
I believe we Christians need to choose our battles wisely; otherwise, we become viewed as a bunch of whiners who are defined by what they’re against. I was talking to a State MP this morning, and he agreed. While he likes the Lord’s Prayer being read and told me the vast majority of MPs are in the chamber at that time[ii], whether or not the prayer is read is NOT the burning issue of our time.
What to Advocate For
Frequently, Christians are viewed as protecting their own self-interests rather than looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). If we’re going to lobby governments it should be on behalf of those who have no voice – the poor, marginalised and mentally ill, asylum seekers, victims of domestic or other types of abuse, widows and orphans, the homeless and trafficked, prisoners, people in hospital and nursing homes and those caught in a cycle of addiction.[iii] That’s the gospel people need to hear and see. Sadly, that’s not the message I got from the Family Voice Australia Facebook post last week.
Where to From Here?
I believe an excellent way forward is a statement to be read out that is based on the Golden Rule, rather than the Lord’s Prayer.[iv] The Golden Rule is one of the oldest life truths known to the human race.[v] 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.
It is first seen in ancient Egyptian history and has been quoted by some of the greatest philosophers including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Philo. What has been known, taught and practised for thousands of years in various religions and philosophies has now also been embraced by modern social psychology.[vi]
The Golden Rule is the ultimate key to a fruitful and satisfying life – the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. So why not write a statement that encapsulates that truth and reading that declaration in Parliament? It would be a brilliant framework for all decisions our MPs need to make and, who knows, they may even start speaking to one another with a little more kindness!
[i] Formerly Festival of Light (Rev. Fred Nile)
[ii] The Greens wait outside the Chamber until the prayer is concluded
[iii] Luke 4:18-19; Matthew 25:34-40
[iv] Jesus put it like this, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, living by this one rule of life is like living up to the entire Hebrew Scriptures (what Christians refer to as The Old Testament).
[vi] Modern social psychology refers to it as The Law of Reciprocity. When someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. One psychology website asked the question: “Have you ever noticed that you feel compelled to do something for people who have helped you along the way – even if they haven’t asked you to? There’s something very powerful at play that causes this phenomenon.”