A factious bunch?

Normally at elections I have been left wondering if my vote would make any difference. Not this time. I now reside in the marginal seat of Greenway. I did not even know that it was marginal until election night.

I was struck that there were a list of 11 candidates on the House or Reps ballot paper (yes, I could have been struck quite literally by the senate paper). I found intriguing that at least three of the parties were appealing in some way to the Christian vote. Part of me was overjoyed that so many candidates would run in this way.

But as I sat glued to the television on election night, I couldn't help but think that maybe the 'Christian vote', in as much as there is one, was being split. The Greens party had no hesitation in talking up the fact that they had received 1 million votes. Regardless of what one may think about their agenda, it is hard to fault their argument that the Australian people want their agenda taken seriously.

By comparison, the conservative 'Christian vote' seemed to be split across a number of parties. The result is that the community (and whoever our Government ends up being) has every reason to think that Christians are a minor group who don't need to be taken seriously - or perhaps, more to the point, Christians are minor groups.

At the time of writing, in the Senate, the Australian Sex Party (194,000) and the Australian Shooters Party (160,000) each had received more counted primary votes than the CDP Christian Party (98,000). Yet Family First, another party appealing to the Christian vote, received 208,000 votes. The casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that Christians now fall into the category of minor groups that can be ignored.

The Greens certainly have their differences. However, they have been able to form a political alliance where they will now have a national platform for their agenda.

Perhaps it is just me. But it seems as though Christians would rather be defined by our differences, rather than the extraordinary range of things we have in common.

And I wonder: are their implications for unity closer to home?

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (8)

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  • Martin Paul Morgan
    August 25, 10 - 12:59am
    This is an interesting issue. Christians are called to support and pray for the government. In our set-up in Australia, Christian people can join and run as a rep in any political party, or set up new political parties. There are active Christians in Liberal, Labour and other parties- and they receive votes from Christians too. Family First have been very clear that they want to appeal to a general group, not just Christians. They say they want to help promote and protect the family values shared by Muslims, and other groups in Australia. The Christian Democrats are specifically appealing to the Christian community, yet there are many more Christians than 98,000. More Christians vote for the "non" Christian parties.

    This is where Christians have to be very careful as we interact with our nation. If we want a good education, we have to be careful before we see a "Christian" school as the only alternative. If we want good governance, we have to be careful before we set up a "Christian" political party. If we want a "better" Christian political party, we can set another one up- etc etc... but it will inevitably lead to factions and a dividing of resources, people and ideas- resulting in less actual influence in the political machinery. All of this is a tendency not just amongst those labelled as Christians: more independents and specific issue parties set up. Our situation as a nation today shows the power they can have if elected.

    Factious is politics
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    August 25, 10 - 7:44am
    hmmm... 1.7 million church-goers did not vote for a Christian party.
  • Jean Marlow
    August 26, 10 - 1:32am
    Jeremy, put me down as one of those 1.7 million. I chose to vote for a party whose policies most closely reflected my views on the issues facing our country. Many of the parties (and individuals) which I chose to not vote for have policies on one or more issues which I agree with, but I couldn't stomach the whole package. As an example, I think that the environment is a hugely important issue but I couldn't possibly vote for the Greens; there are too many other things where I vehemently disagree with them.
    And while I did vote "above the line" in the Senate, in the Reps I voted in my own independant order -didn't follow ANYONE's how to vote ticket. I gave my #1 to a major party, then firstly preferenced an independant who has done a great deal for our community, and put Australia First last, because I don't think that they do. Put Australia first, that is.
    As I always taught my children, and now nieces and nephews, people actually died so that I could vote; it is far to valuable a thing to do without serious consideration of all the issues. And just don't get me started on those people who deliberately wasted their vote on an informal!
  • Ben Stone
    August 30, 10 - 3:44am
    Jeremy I am another one of those 1.7 million that did not vote for a Christian party. Just because a party has the word 'Christian' in their name doesn't mean they are a Christian party.
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    August 30, 10 - 4:29am
    I was pointing out that a vast number of Christians vote for the major parties not questioning that fact. 16% of Australians regularly attend church, 3% voted CDP or FF.

    More interesting is the news in today's Fin Review that analysis shows that Labor seats with the highest % of church-goers in NSW ands QLD swung strongest against Gillard. The inference being that her atheism/de-facto status cost Christian votes.

    Off the top of my head, Robertson on the central coast would be an major exception, to that thesis.
  • Tom Magill
    August 30, 10 - 6:16am
    A friends suggested a 'Christian Greens' party might be a way forward ... ;)
  • Ian Welch
    August 30, 10 - 6:47am
    Quite a leap, if not of faith, certainly of imagination, Jeremy. On your own argument, the vote for the major parties was not driven by religious belief.
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    August 30, 10 - 7:07am
    Just noting the news report Ian not saying that I think its accurate.

    Like to see some more detailed research before drawing my own conclusions.