Sunday, October 07, 2012

Taking  on the Australian Christian Taliban, aka the Sydney Welfare Recipients’ League

A month ago, I wrote a post that assumed there was at least one degree of separation between the Anglican Church in Sydney head Archbishop Peter Jensen and hate-mongering fringe groups like the Australian Christian Lobby.  It turns out I was wrong* – I had thought that the Anglican Church in Sydney might function as most other Anglican church branches do; i.e. have a reputation to protect, and so be conservative about making public statements on matters well outside their natural bailiwick (since the Enlightenment and general cessation of witch-burning, at least).

Fundamentalism latching on to long-established institutions such as the Anglican Church is always an interesting development.  It may seem almost impossible that a main branch of an overall mainstream organism can grow so differently from the other main branches in Australia (and also the English “trunk” and “roots”), but if the branch has sent down a vertical feeder to do its own thing in the ground, then this makes more sense.  So what is so different about what Anglican Church in Sydney and Archbishop Jensen feed on, then?

My hunch is that this rich fertiliser has to be welfare (i.e. taxpayer dollars) – surely no one is otherwise capable of being so unaccountably self-righteous without actually spending the very dollars of the groups they so loudly despise.  “Passive” welfare may be the current buzz-adjective, but active welfare is a much more insidious problem.  By this, I mean welfare as a full-time job, diligently devoted to keeping itself “employed”. 

Of course, it would be a transparent sham to just have an Everlasting and Increasingly More Taxpayer Dollars For Me/Us campaign as the relevant “work”, so the job at hand needs a cover-story.  Enter the government school chaplain program.  When I first heard of this John Howard initiative, I shrugged it off as “typical”. Now, after nearly five years of Labor government, and the school-chaplain program apparently stronger than ever, I regard it as a cancer on civil society, whose time for surgical excision is now overdue – ridiculously so, in fact.    

As with the Pakistan/Afghan Taliban, the school-chaplain program explicitly aims to conflate church with state.  By muddying these waters, secular opponents – or in fact, anyone who hasn’t (yet) been brainwashed, or is otherwise a financial beneficiary of the fundamentalist agenda – have twin hurdles to overcome.  First, they have to take the “low” moral ground, and secondly (and less obviously), they have to stop feeding the monster. 

Yes, I know that it is taxpayers (and other adults) who elect governments, and it is duly elected governments who have seeded, and then continued to propagate the school-chaplain program.  But even in the most liberal Western democracy, the electoral process is just not equal to the task of voting out “I Hate You, But I Get Given Your Dollars Anyway” cashed-up lobby-groups.   Ripping them up, root and branch, is the only viable way of returning our civil eco-system to health.

* “The good fight” [a profile of Archbishop Peter Jensen], by Caroline Overington, Australian Weekend Magazine, 6 October 2012 pp 22 - 25

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