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Saturday, 29 March 2008

Kevin Rudd, Christian faith and the 2007 Federal election

Apparently, the Christian vote played a decisive role in Kevin Rudd's election victory last year. Pentecostal and evangelical Christians proved to be the all-important swinging voters in a string of key seats, many of them in Queensland.

At least that's the finding in research on the 2007 election, carried out by John Black, a former Labor Senator for Queensland, who runs a research and marketing company called Australian Development Strategies.

The religious factor wasn't so much a general swing across the whole of the electorate, it showed up in key electorates that Labor needed to win, and did win. In fact religious identity, specifically Pentecostals and Lutherans remained significant in the analysis of significant factors in swings to the Australian Labor Party in Queensland.

The attraction to Kevin Rudd and the vote for the Labor Party may not have been based simply on Rudd's personal appeal to the conservative religious voter, but about what's been going on theologically in those religious communities.

There are shifts and differentiation within those communities that simply arent picked in sweeping comments that align conservative Christianity with "Religious right" politics.

Religious commentator and ABC broadcaster John Cleary participating in the discussion on the Religion Report observed that the Religious Right had opened faith communities up to re-engagement with civil society over the past twenty years. However, now that those evangelical communities and Pentecostal communities are re-engaged with civil society, they are moving to a wider agenda becoming actively involved for example with Micah Challenge and the Make Poverty History Campaign. Theologically they have been recovering their evangelical heritage that goes back to the progressivism of the 19th century.

Kevin Rudd has made the link directly in appealing to a whole younger generation in these churches, being very influenced over the last 20 years by evangelists like Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis on the Christian Left in the United States. In Rudd's essay, published in The Monthly in October 2006 on faith in politics, in the first three paragraphs of that essay, largely devoted to Dietrich Bonhoeffer he quotes Jim Wallis, the author of 'God's Politics', the bestseller in evangelical churches over the last two years appealing to a whole generation of young people in those evangelical churches.

I reckon this analysis over eggs the pudding a bit, but there is no doubt that both Black and Cleary are on to something that I have picked up in my own discussions with friends cnnected to the Pentecostal community.

For the full transcript of the discussion see The Religion Report - 19 March 2008 - The Christian vote in Australian federal politics
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/stories/2008/2194469.htm

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