Tuesday, 29 January 2013

We are free. Some are not.

Mixing Politics and religion is an interesting thing. I have heard it is like mixing ice cream with manure - you spoil both. There is a line between discrimination and positive discrimination which is hard to define, but sometimes you know it when you see it.

For example I just found out that in the past the clergy didn't have to pay the whopping $5 membership for the Canberra Southern Cross Club. This is positive discrimination. I thought that the (private) clubs could make their own rules as to who it favors and also it is allowed to change those conditions, but it turns out that its the actual ACT legislation that makes the call. I hope they won't legislate who can join other clubs, social groups or church in the future. Personally I think this story is really minor. My two cents is I think everyone should equally pay $5 annually for the privileged of watching fox sports subsidised by gamblers.

In another local story the Vicki Dunne (the Assembly Speaker) is trying to start up a tradition that other states run by holding a prayer service for the local members at the start of parliament for the year. This service would no be exclusively Christian, although it would have a Christian liturgy. Katy Gallagher, the Cheif Minister has declined, and she is free to (and it might be hypocritical for her to attend), but she also declined on behalf of the Labor Party, removing the option for other members to attend or decline (or be hypocritical) on their own behalf. Gallagher doesn't want to favor one religion over another, which is a fair point. I do wonder if she was invited to a Bunnings opening if she would see that as favoring one DIY temple over another.

Politically I am not sure that this is a good move for Labor as people who don't care about religion will not mind one way or the other if someone attends or not. It is only the religious who would see this as a negative, not many would see this as a positive. Australia has never been like American with church attendance rates above 50% of the population (it is about 7% and has been about that for 100 years - read this book). But we are also not all atheists. Two days ago the Atheists Foundation of Australia tweeted for people to sign up to an online atheist census as "Numbers matter. Be counted". According to that site (which of cause is legit and can verify everyone) it shows that twice as many people go to Hillsong on a Sunday than there are atheists in Australia. We are a country that is non-religious, but not one that is anti-religious.

So what is my point? Coming out from the Australia Day long weekend I have to say I am still very glad I live in this country and that I can call it my own. Despite these minor local stories (and please hear me, these two stories are very small - the Canberra Times doesn't have than many things it can report on when the Government isn't sitting). All Australians live in a great country where religious freedom (along with lots of other freedoms) prevails. For this fact I am thankful (and remember you have to be thankful to someone, in my case that someone is God).

To set up a house church in Australia, all you need is a house and some people to attend. In Iran you get 8 years in prison for threatening the national security (does that implicitly mean in Iran they believe Christian house churches actually work?). In Australia when a minister takes over a church of 40 people in a rural area, not many people really react and if there are any "disturbances" the police will treat you the same way as any other citizen. In Sri Lanka the congregation is beaten up and threaten with being burned to death by radicals, while the police say the church brought it on themselves by "riling up the villagers".

In Australia we are free. Some are not.


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