In columns in The Australian, Christopher Pearson has been challenging the authenticity of ALP leader, Kevin Rudd’s Christianity. Pearson claims Rudd equivocates on religion—sometimes Anglican, sometimes Catholic, sometimes privately religious, othertimes suggesting a greater role for the church in state life. Whether or not he has a point, some of Pearson’s poor arguments against Rudd have reinforced for me the importance of sophisticated Christian intellectual engagement in social debate. Pearson just won’t allow for any subtlety of argument.
For example, Pearson suggests that Rudd’s vote in support of legalising the RU486 abortifacient drug was an anti-Christian act. Taking the drug might be anti-Christian and sinful, if one views human life as beginning at conception (as I do), but surely being involved in a political process about its availability is not.
Pearson also suggests, bizarrely, that the Bible contains five passages condemning abortion: one in Galatians and four in Revelations [sic], he says. Galatians 1:15 raises God’s foreknowledge of a human being before birth, but does not contribute anything to the argument about abortion. It is part of the Bible’s overall maximal attitude to human life (the basis of my own view on abortion). I am still struggling to identify the Revelation references: Chapter 12, perhaps, with the child-devouring dragon? But surely Pearson understands this is apocalyptic imagery, not a lesson in ethics? Or does he mean the condemnation of murderers in Rev 22:15? But that pre-empts the argument.
One wonders if Pearson is a Bible reader or merely a Bible wielder, scoring blows for political purposes. I’d love to see the ALP revisit its position on a range of bioethical issues, but Pearson has hardly provided the impetus for it.
In a follow-up column last weekend, Pearson aimed to foil Rudd’s efforts to win back the Catholic vote to Labor. There has been a drift in the other direction over the past decade, and many commentators have noted that Howard’s cabinet looks like a DLP collective! Pearson emphasises the theological distinctives of Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths (a refreshing admission of difference when many paper over such distinctions) and proclaims that Rudd can’t have it both ways. I can’t remember the last time I heard that a politician’s views on transubstantiation might ruin his chances of election. But I do love the fact that it is bringing theology to the fore in our national debates.
Tim Johnson has expanded on my thoughts nicely here
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