Like the rest of the country, Christians are divided on election outcome

Don’t like the outcome? Get involved, say Christian leaders

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called his federal election victory “a miracle” and many of his fellow Christians would agree with him. But not all.

While the president of Alphacrucis College, Professor Stephen Fogarty, says Morrison “will go down in history as the first nationally elected Pentecostal leader in the Western world”, Christians are divided about what place Morrison and his government should have in our history books.

The Australian Christian Lobby is heralding the weekend’s result as a win for religious freedom and parental rights. Others are lamenting the election as a lost opportunity to do more on climate change, to be more generous with Australian aid and build bridges towards reconciliation with Australia’s First peoples.

This reflects the dilemma for Australian Christians in the election posed by apologist and author John Dickson: “I’m here at Australia House to vote … never have a I felt so torn! And I have 30 more minutes in the queue to ponder. How do you cast a vote when you defy your conscience either way?”

ACL’s managing director, Martyn Iles, claimed victory for ACL’s field campaigns in key seats including McMahon, Canning, Bass, Chisholm, Boothby and Petrie, where teams of ACL supporters highlighted policy differences between the two major parties on issues including freedom for faith-based schools and parents’ rights to raise their children “free of gender theory”.

“I have seen more Christians committed to prayer over this election than any other in living memory.” – Martyn Iles

By contrast, former ACL head Lyle Shelton lost his Senate bid in Queensland, picking up only 1.1 per cent of the vote (about 14,800 votes). His party, Australian Conservatives, rated strongly in ACL’s “election values checklist” but look set to fail to pick up an extra seat in the Senate. One Nation was also strongly endorsed in ACL’s checklist and received a swing of +1.7 per cent across the country (and a +3.2 per cent swing in Queensland).

Iles believes prayer played a role in the election outcome. “Among our 140,000-plus supporters, I have seen more Christians committed to prayer over this election than any other in living memory.”

Writing for the ABC today, Professor Patrick Parkinson, a long-term advocate for religious freedom, suggests Labor has a trust issue with religious voters: “Labor may want to look at its attitude to religious faith among the causes of its disastrous performance. It did poorly in areas of Australia where religious faith ― of all kinds ― is alive and well. This was particularly the case in Queensland.”

“I’m not heartbroken because the side I was barracking for lost. It’s because people’s suffering will not be alleviated.” – Brad Chilcott

Meanwhile, other Christian leaders have taken to social media to lament the surprise Coalition victory.

Brad Chilcott, lead pastor of Activate Church in South Australia and founder of the Welcome to Australia movement, said on Facebook the outcome would see “refugee and asylum seeker friends resigned to another three years of soul-destroying limbo” as well as the “dashed aspirations” of Australia’s First Peoples.

“I’m not heartbroken because the side I was barracking for lost. It’s because people’s suffering will not be alleviated – while the privileged cheer that their tax breaks remain intact,” he said.

Eternity understands a group of Christian leaders are drafting a letter to the Prime Minister, assuring him of their prayers but calling on a new Coalition government to go further in addressing environmental concerns, an issue marked as the major loser in the election wash-up.

“We appreciate that politically there are challenges on this issue of which you will be very familiar,” the letter reads.

“There are economic challenges regarding the very real need for jobs in, for example, the mining industry. These sorts of issues make it difficult for leaders to find win-win solutions for both the communities concerned and for the environment. However, we also think that a strong economic case can be made for getting on the front foot in terms of clean energy and environmental protections as well as providing aid for nations most immediately at risk from climate change. The task is urgent, and we hope that ‘for such an hour as this’ your government will be up to the challenge.”

Jason John, Common Grace’s team leader on its climate and justice team, says the country had two choices when it came to the major parties on climate change: Labor promising to deliver “about half” of the action needed and the Coalition promising to deliver “about a quarter” of such action.

“So whatever happened, there was still a lot of work to be done by us and the population of Australia to push our leaders to take the kind of action that we need.”

“Invest in being a faithful Christian presence in the political process and speak up about what Christians actually believe.” – Nathan Campbell

Presbyterian pastor and blogger Nathan Campbell outlined four positive ways for Christians to respond to this election, regardless of how you feel about the result:

“1. Pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2).

“2. If it’s appropriate for you, join a political party. Either side. Invest in being a faithful Christian presence in the political process and speak up about what Christians actually believe whether it’s about religious freedom, the environment, or the humanity of refugees — make the case for those not in the room, which requires deep listening to the political other. Be an ambassador for Christ.

“3. Participate in political action apart from the ‘government’. Join an institution, a community group, a cause and work towards ‘political solutions’ or change that doesn’t depend on the government, and that may create a cultural change that prompts a government response.

“4. Invest deeply in church life as an alternative kingdom, where Jesus is king. Realise that the air we breathe and the narratives we believe about our politicians and the economy and the way we do business are profoundly shaped by a world that has a fundamentally different vision for humanity – and that we’re meant to embody a way of love that is quite subversive because it’s built on the worship and service of a crucified king (who was crucified by the state), and that he frees us ‘from the world’ through his victory over sin and death and Satan, and his resurrection, and his giving the Spirit to us. Live and tell a better story about life, that is good, true, and beautiful.”