Kevin Rudd is the prime minister of Australia. He is running for re-election this Saturday. Monday night was one of the final conversations with the public in the ABC show "Q and A." A Christian pastor, radio show host, and a friend of mine, Matt Prater was in the audience and asked the PM a question. Prater asked, about trust, and about Rudd's Christian commitment. Mr Rudd said he made a decision a few months ago to change his position on gay marriage after reflecting for "many, many months and years" and concluding in his "informed conscience and Christian conscience" that it was the right thing to do.
John Sandeman from Eternity magazine interviewed Prater the next day. "You had a go at Kevin over three things. One was chopping and changing, another was his view on gay marriage, and was he fair dinkum in his view of the Bible. Which is the key one for you?
[Prater:] I think his view of the Bible. Because if you don’t take the Bible, and the message of the Bible at face value then your whole foundation is shaky. The whole Bible points to Jesus from the Old Testament to the New Testament. So what does Jesus say about a topic? That’s the bottom line to me."
At one point, the PM challenged the pastor to further clarify his view, demanding he say whether he thought homosexuality was "abnormal".
"I just believe in what the Bible says and I'm just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?"
Mr Rudd responded: "Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition." Rudd referred to Paul's comments - in Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 - for slaves to be obedient to their masters. And he finished with, "we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US Civil War". Rudd concluded with "The human condition and social conditions change," he said. "What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. If we get obsessed with a particular definition for that through sexuality then I think we're missing the centrality of what the gospel... is all about. And therefore I go back to my question, if you think homosexuality is an unnatural condition then frankly I cannot agree with you based on any element of the science."
John Dickson wrote on Twitter today, "The New Testament's "honour your master"(Ephesians 6:5) no more endorses slavery than "honour the emperor" endorses pagan dictatorships. Both are retrieval ethics."
I had never heard that term retrieval ethics. This shows my ignorance, but also launched me into more reading today. And will lead me to more writing/ blogging about ethics in the days to come. But for now, I'm amazed at the Prime Minister's ignorance of both the Bible's views on slavery and on same-sex marriage. I understand why Prater thinks that the view of the Bible is #1 as it really does influence our thinking on everything else in life. More about that in my conversation later this week about ethics vs Scripture in schools.
I address both topics here, but the slavery issue is amazing to cite. Lately I've been teaching much about law vs grace and quote from Paul's letter to Timothy. Here Paul clarifies what is 'out of bounds.' We read, "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless, rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers (read: slave traders!) and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching. (1 Timothy 1.8-10) Same-sex activity is as condoned and normative as murder and perjury.
Therefore I'm a bit concerned that the PM indicates his understanding of same-sex activity is a revision based on his Christian conscience and his informed conscience. I honestly don't know what Christian conscience is, but whatever it is, it ought to be in line with the Christian Scriptures. And same-sex activity is as appropriate as slave trading and parental murder.
Also as a Jew I'm shocked about the PM's perspective on slavery. In fact, just the opposite seems to be in the Almighty's view. The Torah reads, “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. ..And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing. (24.17, 22) Arguing for good treatment of slaves as a natural condition of slavery is to misunderstand the Bible. Completely.
I am proud of William Wilberforce and so many others who led the charge against slavery. I'm sorry it took so many centuries before this was done. I'm also very sorry about the amount of sex-slaves in the world today, in Southeast Asia, in Eastern Europe and around the globe. And proud of those who work for their release.
Slavery is not God's idea. Proper treatment of people is His concern.
The PM has changed his mind, and that's not the worst thing in life. Especially if you had it wrong earlier and change to a better idea. But Mr Rudd seems to be pandering for certain blocks of votes. If there is a "Christian vote" in Australia, and I'm not sure there is, he has just lost it entirely.
Read more: Eternity interview
The Age article