Monday 9 August 2004

Identity politics

A fascinating biography of two leading Australian politicians—Opposition leader, Mark Latham, and Government Minister, Tony Abbott—has highlighted Christianity as a point of difference (among many). Michael Duffy, author and publisher, argues that Abbott couldn't decide between priest and politician, whereas Latham has never had time for the established churches (although he is attracted to the Jesus of history).

Both men are outspoken on ethical and moral issues, notably Abbott on abortion and Latham on social inequities. Both hold ethical ideals and have not always caved in to political pragmatism. They do in fact stand for things.

I suspect the difference between their attitudes may be linked to different approaches to institutions per se, with Abbott defending their central authority and Latham the 'outsider' questioning their power and noting their hypocrisy.

But Christianity is not primarily ethical nor institutional, it's spiritual. It is about identity—the identity of God, of Jesus, and self-identity as a penitent sinner, as a child of God, as a created being. It's about how you see yourself and the world.

The identity questions shape the rest of it. But how significant are they to government in a democracy? I'd be interested in your comments.

For another perspective, try The Australian

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