Title: Reaching out to the Christian Left Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 10th November 2006 - 12:00pm1163113200 Article: 1475 Rights
At the recent Labour Party conference, Professor Paul Morris (Victoria University) suggested a more active outreach to the Christian Left from the centre-left. Hmmm. I'd have to say that I would provisionally support a rephrased version of this idea. Why? Well, let's put it something like this. New Zealand is a growingly secularised society, true. New Zealand also has a growing multicultural and pluralist great faith base if one contemplates the census. So, why not establish a 'Faith in Labour Group,' although I'd question why it has to be restricted to Christians alone. I'm sure Paul wasn't suggesting that, however. Is this inimical to religious freedom and church/state separation? Well, no, as the Labour Party is a broadly based political party, and shared values of equal opportunity and shared social justice transcend labels of religious and secular. Whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, or secularist, those shared values are more important than the narrowly specific sectarian identity politics on the centre-right when it comes to conservative Christians. If Christian Labour supporters want to use biblical or theological traditions to mobilise support for peace and social justice, then hey, great, and it's the same with the Koran and other religious texts. Usually, they have no hesitation in standing shoulder to shoulder with their secular counterparts. Overseas, some LGBT activists are somewhat apprehensive about centre-left political parties that try to enlist centre-left people of faith. There are concerns that these centre-left people of faith might be dodgy over questions of women's reproductive freedom or LGBT rights. In New Zealand's case, that question is becoming less relevant as time goes on. After the last general election, there was a Forum of the Christian Left held in Wellington, and it seems to be quite LGBT inclusive. For them, poverty and economic social inclusion are more pressing issues than pandering to social conservatives through attacking LGBT rights. FoCaL even includes some left-wing evangelicals. And there's always Stimulus, New Zealand's independent evangelical magazine. All of which leads one to ask what happens when the 'culture wars' end? In New Zealand, with adoption reform on the horizon, there's every prospect that we will be able to retire from legislative reform with full formal equality achieved. After that happens, everything may change. At some point in the intermediate future, we might enter co-belligerency over crystal meth as a threat to our communities with other concerned community groups- perhaps even some social conservatives. In the wake of the "Haggardgate" affair, the US National Association of Evangelicals has struck a conciliatory tone,even wondering if LGBT Americans and evangelicals could 'work together' on some issues. Not if they keep attacking our relationship and parenting equality recognition, they won't. As for our Christian Right, their reaction is typically precious. "You mean Christians vote Labour?" whined one fundamentalist online publication, Christian News? Well, yes, because the Christian Left does coalition politics better, and doesn't rely on conservative identity politics which makes militant demands for the priority of its sectarian religious public policy preferences. And yes, I can imagine an interfaith left playing an important role in debate. Many religious community welfare groups are concerned about New Right welfare policy developments, for example. Why is the Christian Right so scared? Look at the Republican Congressional rout within the United States, where some moderate evangelical Christians are starting to question the Iraq War, and debate whether evangelicals should sign up to the legitimate use of torture, domestic surveillance and suppression of political dissent, environmental exploitation and other issues involved in the so-called Bush administration "War on Terror." Slowly but surely, the US Christian Right is losing control of debates over religion and politics in its homeland. Let's insure that its satellites don't have an easy run of it, either. Recommended: Labour Party Stimulus and Focal (Christian Left websites). ALP strategist Kevin Rudd- Australian Politics and Religious Faith. Newsweek: Evangelicals v the Religious Right??! Craig Young - 10th November 2006    
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