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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Australian Parliament and the Lord's Prayer

The semi-regular rerun of the argument over opening the meeting of the Australian Parliament with the recital of the Lord's Prayer has had it's run with the usual arguments trotted out.

The only thing relatively fresh was the suggestion by Senator Bob Brown of the Greens that a few minutes silence would be appropriate given the volume of words that flowed forth every day. That certainly is a point worth making.

The Christendom mentality was still well and truly represented in letters to the editor with references to Australia being a Christian country and the Christian influence on our laws and heritage.

Let me offer a few random thoughts and questions from a Christian tradition that has its roots in a profound critique of Christendom.

Let's start with a bit of theology. The so-called "Lord's Prayer" is more appropriately titled "the Disciples' Prayer". It was taught by Jesus to a motley group of followers who were on the social and political margins - it was a prayer that was subversive of the governing assumptions of the Empire - focusing around questioning of the Empire, God was more important than Caesar, a commitment to an economics of enough, rather than excess, and of forgiveness as a basic pattern for social life.

The disciple's prayer is a prayer for the church - a prayer to shape the character of its life and that of its members not a rote piece of religiosity rushed through with intonation or feeling. It's recital in Parliament in fact has the effect of subverting the subversive character of the prayer by giving a flavour of conservative religiosity to what is and should be a "secular" institution in the sense used by the current PM in an article he wrote back in 2006.

Christians he argued should … always hold a state somewhat at arm's length, but in their engagement with the state, they should take a consistent ethical position, which is always based on a cause of social justice or the interests of the marginalized.

…I strongly defend our parliament and our polity as being both secular and pluralist, but within that secular pluralist polity, you can't deny Christians having their voice, just as you can't deny anyone else having their voice …,

Christians if they took the disciple's prayer seriously should be moving immediately to have it withdrawn from the formal proceedings of parliament. It is an unacceptable hangover of Christendom. Its current use in that context is a profaning of its character and a mockery of its original intent and meaning.


Anonymous said...

Amen Doug! I was thinking about blogging on this topic, and I wished I could have said it as well as you. ;) Do you find that many evangelicals understand this perspective or are they all caught up in the myth of a Christian nation?

Doug said...

Lots of adherence to the myth around I am afraid