This is the second post in a two-part series. If you need to, you can click here to go back and read the first part.
…And things get worse. While I was writing my previous post, our country went to the polls in what was termed the ‘climate election.’ It was the most googled term in Australia in the lead up to voting. The progressive side of parliament talked passionately about how climate change is the single biggest issue our world faces, and if we don’t do something about this, then nothing else matters. The conservative side talked about the importance of the economy. The opinion polls declared that it would be a definitive win for the progressive side, but in a shock upset reminiscent of Trump’s win and Brexit, the conservatives won. We’re marooned in a country with no clear policy on how we’re going to circumvent the climate crisis we’re tipping into, but we sure as hell will make sure we’re not taxed too badly on investment properties (before they go underwater).
In all of this, it’s my grasp of faith that’s been most shaken. The conservatives riffed on the bible to justify their platform. The day after his surprise win, the Prime Minister said he’d ‘always believed in miracles’ before declaring triumphantly ‘God bless Australia!’ In that context, it conjures a god that blesses our money-hungry, climate-change-denying, poor-forsaking, asylum-seeker-ignoring, totally-unequal country. Apparently Jesus has changed his mind on the the stuff he talked about in the gospel to make middle and upper class Westerners very comfortable indeed. I missed that chapter of the Good Book.
Many Christians voted conservative because they were worried their ‘religious freedoms’ would be taken away. That meant, their right to discriminate based on sexuality and gender, their ability to voice biblically-based exclusivism, that their own profitable, unchallenged self-interests would remain untouched. And that’s what got our current government over the line. I’m not sure what to do with Christianity anymore, if this is what it stands for. I struggle to find connection between this kind of thinking and the Jesus of the bible they are so dogmatic about. Look at me using exclusive pronouns as if I am not part of this collective, but I’m not so sure where I fit these days. In the wake of this shocking political outcome, I talked with friends who were in a similar position of trying to reconcile their faith with this skewed representation of it. For them, it boiled down to the fact that we need to live this difference. As disillusioned as we feel, we can’t give up hope for restoration, for kindness, for inclusion. But I am weary, and I feel so small in this sea of conservatism.
The day after the election, I posted this to social media:
I cried last night, for an Australia that cares more about our own pockets than the future we’re making for ourselves. For the asylum seekers, the Indigenous, the poor, the disabled, the dispossessed, the environment…
I’m stunned the coalition did much of their spruiking from a Christian platform and won, considering that Jesus stood for all on that list, and our leaders stand for none. How has this disconnect come to define modern Christianity? I am genuinely baffled, and I don’t identify with this money-obsessed, self-focused, others-fearing, future-destroying version of faith.
I dreamed different dreams last night. Hopeful ones where better people got elected, but I woke up to this horrifying reality again and it’s hard not to feel crushed. Then this line from one of my favourite poems kept running through my head, and I’m holding onto it.
We will not give up. We will keep raging against the injustice and lack of mercy that defines our current political system. We will not go gentle into that good night. It’s not over.
And I included an image of a couple of the best lines of poetry ever written: the end of Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
It’s hard not to start going gently in the face of such daunting obstacles. Sometimes, it feels so overwhelming to try and speak against a majority that it seems easier to shut up and stop resisting. Some people responded to my post asking how I could reconcile Labor and the Greens’ anti-Christian policies, or threw random verses at me, accusing me of being selective in my interpretation of the bible, or posted images produced by conservative Christians outlining how any party except Liberal or the Christian Democrats were pretty much out to get Christians (and if I hear another Western Christian saying they are being persecuted for their faith, so help me…), or said that everyone is entitled to their opinion. It didn’t help the growing sense of disillusionment I was feeling. Interestingly, it was a lot of my friends who don’t identify with Christianity that resonated with this disillusionment so much. One reposted it, saying that although she is not a Christian, these ideas about faith and social conscience are important. I’ve found more kindred people on the outside of Christianity in recent years, which is where I feel Jesus spends his time. I know it’s important to not live our lives in a vacuum of our own views by only surrounding ourselves with people who think like us, but there is something to be said for the solace found with people who empathise and question and embody God in the fringes.
I went to church the Sunday morning following our election. I’m not sure why. I was teary and furious, verging between deep-seated rage and absolute hopelessness. It was like I’d shed scales from my eyes and could only see a planet of decay and destruction, not the one of clear skies and deep beauty I’d known the day before. I was so very sad for my children. So very angry at Christianity. I’d pass people and guess which party they’d voted for, feeling resentment at the imagined political ideals of other congregants. I ventured into the darkest emotional terrain I’d ever been to, and the world felt closed.
A lot of time has passed since that election, and in many ways things feel bleaker. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently released a damning indictment on the state of our planet, and the world seems weary.
So, how do we manage our frustration and faith? It can also be deeply ironic that our disillusionment can make us just as hateful and narrow-minded as the ideas we criticise. There are times that I get caught up in a self-righteousness that makes me no better than what I am raging against. Jesus calls us to a different way of doing things: offering grace when we are wronged, loving the person in front of us even when we find it so hard to love what they stand for, being soft-hearted in our request for reform. I see glimpses of Jesus in some of the social dialogue I hear. It’s in the people calling for the inclusion of asylum seekers, advocating for the disabled and Indigenous, calling for more responsibility for our planet, noticing the overlooked and using our voices to amplify theirs. I don’t see much Jesus in the mainstream representations of church, and this is the hardest thing of all to process. But he’s there, and he brings hope. And he’s bigger and more mysterious than we realise. Things really aren’t over, as much as they can feel that way at times.
In the meantime, I do wake up each morning to a world that feels irretrievable. I fear for my kids’ future. I weep at the misrepresentations of Jesus I encounter constantly. But. We can’t give up. If Jesus is our example, we keep loving and including and resisting. There is hope, there is hope, there is hope. We just need to partner with it to bring this reality into the world.