I have been wondering why last weekend’s election result has affected me so deeply. I suppose that the many polls led me to think that the Coalition Government had been so discredited after three prime ministers in six years , constant internal bickering , inaction over energy policy and climate change and an almost policy-free agenda , save for tax cuts directed mainly towards the rich, that a Labor victory was an almost lay down misere. Labor had been working on its own visionary agenda for the future over the past six years and had deliberately put it out early for all to consider. It was a bold but courageous platform.
Contributing to my misguided optimism , was the number of young people voting for the first time and even the publicity given to the death of a Labor stalwart whom most acknowledge changed Australia for the better during his long prime ministership.
Of the sins which would send us all to hell , enumerated in Israel Folau’s controversial tweet, one major one was omitted . Greed or more precisely , the love of money. Therein , I fear , lies the problem . Australia has become a more greedy and less caring country obsessed with money . A kinder and more compassionate society in Australia seems presently to be out of the question. To redistribute wealth so that the poor , the vulnerable and those struggling can enjoy a better life , seems too much to ask of a people who cannot think beyond their own hip pocket . If schools, hospitals , nursing homes etc are to be properly funded, tax loopholes, which are predominantly the domain of the well-off, must be tightened , that is if we are to remain a country of justice and the much touted fair-go.
Perhaps I am being too harsh and not taking into account the onslaught from vested interests, people such as Rupert Murdoch , Clive Palmer and their ilk , the outright lies that were told about Labor’s proposals , the blatant scare-mongering. One elderly woman was heard to say that they were coming after her pension. Not everyone has the sophistication to see through these canards deliberately circulated in order to unsettle and confuse.
Our Prime Minister is a practising Pentecostal Christian where the prosperity gospel, based on a limited list of selected scriptural passages , often takes pride of place. The prosperity gospel can be very seductive . The godly are materially rewarded even in this life. Ignored are the many passages which contradict this ideology , none perhaps more trenchant than : “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God . ” Mark 10:25. The accumulation of wealth can become the overarching focus of many people’s lives , a false god , an idol of bewitching allure .
At least idolatry is one of Israel Folau’s sins demanding eternal damnation but , in most minds , this is dismissed as primitives kneeling before some stone or wooden image . But Mammon ( money ) is out greatest idol , our most sought-after false god . ( Incidentally, I do not agree with Israel’s narrow and simplistic reading of the bible but neither do I question his sincerity. All I would counsel is that he leave the judging to God and remind him that the New Testament was written two thousand years ago when homosexuality was not understood as we understand it today.)
The love of money is an impediment to Christian discipleship and the source of untold evil but that does not that mean that money is inherently evil. Whether wealth is evil or not depends on the use one makes of one’s resources. Mammon can be put to use in the service of God . The Acts of the Apostles offers glimpses of the early church organising its efforts in order to provide for the needy. Time and space do not permit me to elucidate but the Bible has more to say about the use of wealth than it does about any other moral issues of our day.
No one has spoken more consistently about this than Pope Francis . In Laudato Si 90, he writes :” We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty with no way out while others have not the faintest idea what to do with their possessions , vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which , if it were the case everywhere , would destroy the planet.” His plain speaking and constant advocacy of the poor and the migrant has made him the most disparaged living pope I have experienced in 51 years of ministry, even denounced by his very own. Many have gone so far as to accuse him of heresy.
Prime Minister Morrison received an early call from President Trump congratulating him on his victory and comparing his unexpected win to his own. An immediate rapport seemed to ensue. They have more in common than a love of baseball caps – the oft-repeated catch-phrases ( ” How good is that !” or ” We’ll see what happens , folks.”) an aversion to those genuinely seeking asylum, a cavalier attitude to the perils of global warming , a tendency to opportunism .
The billionaire President, narcissistic , unpredictable and impulsive , has a habit of alienating friends and provoking those he considers adversaries. As I write , Iran seems to be his latest bete noir . I earnestly hope that our former misadventures in Vietnam , Afghanistan and Iraq with out great and powerful friends , will not lead to any further catastrophes of a similar nature. It is bad enough to go all the way with LBJ, to do the same with the mercurial , and some claim, unhinged Donald J , could be an unmitigated and monumental disaster.
Bernard Moylan is a retired Catholic priest in Sydney.