Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I am not a theocrat

Joe Hockey, Shadow Federal Treasurer, recently addressed the Sydney Institute on the sometimes thorny issue of the separation of religion and state. Click here to read the text of this speech. Hockey quite eloquently asserts that religion does have a place in political discourse in a secular democracy such as Australia, and argues that it is unreasonable to ask religious politicians to set aside their beliefs when making decisions. This is a perfectly valid observation to make.

I'm not sure what to make of the other points he raises. They are less well articulated, so that without the benefit of being able to speak to Hockey directly, it's difficult to put the finger on where he's coming from. As far as the Bible is concerned, he appears to assert that it is no longer possible to support a literalist reading of Scripture. It's not exactly clear what he means by this. Read a good book on Biblical interpretation, and one of the key principles is that the Bible is to be taken literally unless the context demands otherwise. Part of the task of hermeneutics is to determine how to apply this principle.

Hockey is a politician, and for this reason needs to be pragmatic in his public statements. He affirms the positive values that religious faith contributes to the fabric of society.

In his words, these are "a fair go, tolerance and respect, the importance of family and of making a contribution to the lives of others."

You don't need to be religious to subscribe to these values. In fact, you'll sometimes find that atheists or agnostics do a better job of embodying these values than the religious, which raises another set of questions. And broadly speaking, all the major religions may support these values, but that does not mean that all religions have the same essential underlying message. On closer inspection you will find great variance in the teachings of the major religions. This is not the place to explore this question, but I'd encourage any independent thinking and intellectually honest spiritual seeker to do so.


lgarth said...

Simply, Ross, Hockey doesn't know what he stands for, and doesn't need to until after the next election. Until then he needs to gather his rosebuds while he may.

Kitty Cheng said...

Let's persevere in prayers. Our God is sovereign and in control. He does answer prayers! :)