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Week-End, August 21-22
GRACE AND GRATITUDE
Multiculturalism and Historical Reality: Partisanship for Facts
A TV News Report of a Multicultural Conference in this country made this already over-done goose, burn acridly. A Canadian Psychology Professor told how there were many options for new ways, as if this poor country, so ready to sell whatever soul is left, should become a sort of innovator's paradise, or visionary's dream. Unfortunately, visions these days are often clayey, blind and smoke-filled, a sort of lurid excuse for not understanding.
The same weakness appeared in the Constitutional Preamble
now in force for the referendum in this country, on
Republicanism. Despite much effort evidently expended to prevent
FALSE IMPLICATIONS, and to satisfy all warring parties, the preamble in
fact makes a monumental omission. It is rather like a child, who, being
asked concerning his forbears, yet manages to omit mention
of his parents.
While in the orienting Preamble,
we are told of the contributions from what are imagined to be
Now the English are not the greatest; the British are not unbeatable: but they WERE the formal sponsors of the first KNOWN time this continent was tied up into the form of a nation. They WERE (and ostensibly still are) a people formally, through their sovereign, linked to the Bible in overall impact, and to Protestantism in terms of the requirements of the religion of the sovereign. As a people, they had enough of Romanism, which was fiery in their midst, more often than was the case in the record of the friends of Daniel, in the alien Babylonian Empire, where they had their troubles as captive-cadets.
HENCE, objectively, it is an unthinkable omission. This beginning coloured many institutions, law and morals, led to religious land grants in Victoria, for example, in proportion to immigration statistics, as we read in the Constitution of the 1850's. These of course included those for the Roman Catholic body; but the point is that there was a very explicit religious base, one which, though filled with civil tolerance to an extraordinary degree - an excellent thing - was certainly conspicuous. To present HISTORY with such an omission, is merely to give a FUTURE preference on the part of many people, a PAST intrusion, distorting the account of the actual STARTING point and INSTITUTIONAL founding character of our nation, by a reporting failure so profound as to constitute VIRTUAL propaganda. This is by no means to attribute such an intention; yet it does appear rather to constitute the nature of the result!
On the other hand, some of the British Royalty and the Church of England via high prelates, have both made it clear by their actions that there is nothing very DISTINCTIVELY Protestant about Britain now. Further, it is true that for long years Australia has not been subject to British rule; but that is not the point. It is question of what is BEING SAID IN THE PREAMBLE ABOUT WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM. The little matter of birth is omitted.
Again, let us emphasise this. There are parties and all that sort of thing in this matter, as is not surprising; for, apart from anything else, Australia would constitute a very nice plum for any sectarian group, with secular religious philosophy or ecclesiastically domineering proclivities, to PICK UP! It would be far better to acknowledge where we came from in ITS DUE PLACE, together with the rich and numerous contributions of most interesting immigrants: ALL IN ORDER. It is ALL there; not just some one part of it, which it seems some in the Conference mentioned above, wished even MORE to be emphasised, as the nature of things is discussed, in this pivotal piece of our nation's history. That, even more such emphasis, in some ways is rather like giving growing pills to a giant.
We need to get back to the source of the (comparatively) delightful tolerance in the Christian background which at the time, despite MANY declivities from the book, was and is not small thing even nationally. We may indeed notice various imports, but not without first observing who built the docks. Certainly convicts, often most repressively treated, formed no small part of the beginnings. This is no panegyric for Britain. As noted earlier however (News 13), there has been a significant contribution from Britain, as Empires go, in the love of liberty in speech, and law in rule. Perhaps their many unfortunate kings helped them appreciate liberty the more; but certainly there were many in England, as in Scotland, who in various times and places, paid heavily for the liberty to preach the Gospel and live by it, with that emphasis on love which is a major distinctive, and on truth, which is another.
There is, meanwhile in this land, an unfortunate move in the electronic area or arena, if you will (see Joyful Jottings Preface;13; 14, pp. 99ff.) to limit this liberty. To be sure, the Minister put out an explicit communication to indicate that there was NO QUESTION of the new telecommunications law inhibiting free speech; it is just that any such provision and protection or limit was conspicuously lacking in the law itself! As it stood, it gave to certain social groups, the power to veto with 24 hours notice, work on the Web, on the ground that perhaps it MIGHT turn out to be undesirable to a reasonable person! If there were unrestrained attitudes - the definition of reasonable person being able to vary like the climate, it could violate the UN Declaration on Religious Discrimination, which is law in this land. This is discussed in the references just given.
If, however, it is true that this is no intrusion into free speech, but merely an overdue protection of a vulnerable and immature group from exploitation before they can understand, then why leave it to people to go to the High Court for 6 digit dollar payment, perhaps, to show it ? Why let such a confusion arise through mere lack of provisions and explanations in the law itself!
Why not PROTECT FREE SPEECH IN THE LAW and simply exclude
exploitation of the young and immature, as was the stated intention! The
answer to that question should not be long in coming. Freedom was not fought
for, in two World Wars, for some slithery assault on it to be ignored,
whether intentional or not, or whether or not it was in mind on the case
of this or that pressure group, back of it.
Even in the law which so intrudes itself into freedom, there should have been adequate provision for the preservation of our priceless heritage of liberty from pollution and abuse. In this case, to be sure, law was needed; but so were the limits. Whether the Minister shall be shown honest in his assertion beforehand, concerning freedom of speech, remains to be seen. Even if he is, there is always the next Minister in the next Government. It is ALWAYS in law, a sound thing to say what you mean: neither more nor less!
This can prevent untold suffering, loss and confusion, ill-will and potential exploitation.
That, then, brings us back where we began: the multi-cultural "community"*1 (see SMR pp. 1191ff., glossary for p. 844). There is, then, for this new Republic, so conspicuous with its multicultural inclusivism of concept, even to the point that basic history is largely deleted in the seeming overview of the Preamble: there is an interesting component, among the competitors for dominating, dictating or devising the result. It is this: LET US GET INTO THE REPUBLIC FIRST, AND THINK ABOUT WHAT FOLLOWS NEXT.
Is this, however, wise ?
REPUBLICANISM AND PRECIPITANCY:
Partisanship for Conscientious Prudence
When I was a student at Scotch College Melbourne, happily through free competitive process, on scholarship to the removal of fees, we had a teacher who many will remember. His misfortune appeared to be this: that one leg trailed behind him. It must have been a terrible impediment; but one never recalls any mention of it at any time. It seems he once dived into water without adequately checking its depth, and broke his back.
All his life was therefore in part, a testimonial to the value of checking first. The new Republican approach appears to forget this rule: not on the part of all, but of those who value this approach, saying, Let's not loiter, but act now! Let us then do whatever is necessary, when the Republic is founded.
The advantages of precipitancy however, do not atone for a broken back. The value of act-now, is not enough to remove the possibility, acute and historically confirmed enough, that forces not so innocuous as may now seem, are quite capable of using the LACK OF CARE in checking the depth of the Republican water, to produce not republic, but ruin.
We are not a CHARMED nation, but one in many ways, very well begun, and marvellously helped by the intense Christian input. Be clear: it is NOT a Christian nation. It is not for one moment asserted that it ever was: but for all that, it has had an enormous input from individuals and laws of this kind. This has stabilised, humanised and breathed into our midst a certain restraint. We did not come from a 'version' of 'Christianity' rich in blood, though the Anglican church erred more than enough there*2. Nor for that matter was it the only major, initial contributing body. At least, the continuing misuse of religion for forceful dominance was not a major feature, when this people was born, but increasingly, the real fruits of Gospel law were far more apparent than often is the case in nations.
Two world wars have affirmed our desire not to be slaves. This, with freedom in the much vaunted Atlantic Charter sense, for religion and for speech (one's desires in religion are intense, but NEVER come into that realm of using force and privilege to 'control', or manipulate or disadvantage, unfairly removing the opportunity to present a logical case: indeed the latter merely improves the impact of the Biblical faith): these things have aided excellent results for the love of truth and the certainties of the Gospel. We are still, for example, unimprisoned for preaching or applying it!
Now however there is an opportunity to be precipate.
We could JUMP INTO the REPUBLIC, like a hot and wearied (or perhaps, more realistically, an impatient and ambitious) traveller over the desert, come to an oasis resort. We could have a government which virtually, in one act, controlled the country, by appointing its own Governor General or President, so that between them, they could 'wrap it up' - surely one of the most foolish failures of which any nation could be capable. We could ignore the UMPIRE element in our present arrangement with Queen and Governor-General outside our specific political scene. We could through slack verbiage and careless announcements, allow the umpire to be ineffectual and LAW to fail to be applied (in the way Sir John Kerr, whatever some may think of his action re Whitlam, evidently sought to implement).
We could moreover allow a situation where the President could be sacked without automatic and certain elections resulting SOON (as in fact mercifully happened in the Whitlam case). We could allow dangerous interims. We could omit the consideration that IF the President were sacked, then NO new, no innovative laws could occur till after the next election. We could, on the other hand, allow the President to sack the Prime Minister without immediate elections (give a few weeks, parallel to the above). We could hurry, we could be assured all was well (as in that electronic communications law), without being QUITE SURE that this was indeed the case!
Worse, perhaps, we could allow LAW to become vague and fuzzy, by allowing the 'President' ( a dangerous element of glamour for our quiet people) to have rather uncertain powers (protected by the laziness or lust of ambiguities), instead of performing his ideal role in so developed a country as this: COUNSELLOR AND UMPIRE. It is more important that we have control and order, with very genuinely free elections, than some glamorised face, some farcical hugeness of importance. We can already elect leaders. We need the result to be contained by law, by lack of abuse of licence, by curbs on absolute power in the political arena.
The law is important, and we all are but men. THAT is certainly one of the excellent cultural stresses that till now, has tended to surface with delightful regularity in the Australian scene. While it continues to do so, there is a better measure of safety.
THE PROFUSION OF CONFUSION AND
THE NECESSITY OF CLARITY
Thus this is nothing whatever to do with preferring this race to that. It is EVERYTHING to do with preferring a situation where NO RELIGION WILL OR CAN BE DOMINANT BY POLITICAL MEANS, where FREE SPEECH CANNOT BE CONTROLLED BY POLITICAL MEANS, to the detriment of logically argued positions, and where FICTIONAL representations (by unthoughtful omissions and their implications or any other means) of our past, which so relates to the pleasantness of our present, are not to be suffered.
So often religious liberty is confused with racism: in fact, the two in some instances, for cultural reasons, may be related, but ideally they are entirely diverse. WHOEVER has aided liberty has conferred enormous advantage; and whatever has dictatorially repressed it, has been a danger, be his nation or tribe what it will.
Liberty has the vast advantage of allowing to the well-intentioned, the zealous seekers, more opportunity to find truth. This political form of liberty is not easily obtained; is easily lost, and often. Australia needs a due sense of its past to estimate its present.
Beyond ALL of this, there is need to realise that ANY move to change the flag to some secular symbolism, to remove the past either by omission, as above, or by distortion, ingratitude and blindness, is also IN PART likely to be one to remove that attention to GOD which has in part, been a characteristic of this country at its birth, and has in many ways, though not necessarily significant to a great extent formally, yet at least, been an implication from our relationship to the British sovereign, and his/her relationship to the Bible. This is not an assertion about a formal religious status, denied expressly by our federal Constitution; but it is an assertion about the very substantial spiritual involvements of our past, through earlier attitudes, of the character and basis of our laws and the express sympathy sometimes stated formally and officially to the Christian faith. Any departure from all the past, especially in a merely blind or reactionary way, will of course tend to short-circuit a huge element of toleration and restraint, limitation and law from our midst. The results of this are not expected to be beneficial, judging by the manners of this world, in which Australia appears as one of the most peaceable nations on this earth.
People often lose things through ingratitude; it is to be hoped that Australia will not lose her peace through a thoughtless thanklessness, or a disproportionate emphasis on the (undoubted) faults of our commencement and political mother, to the detriment of a realisation of the virtues. As to the latter, it would be profoundly unwise to dismiss them with elegantly extended, nationally adolescent hand, like some juvenile pilot who, newly qualified, opens up the throttle of his fighter plane, and moves romantically if uncertainly into the vast and appalling uncertainties of space.
"RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION" (Proverbs 14:34) is a statement too well known to need any exposition here. There is added, however, to this: "BUT SIN IS A REPROACH TO ANY PEOPLE!"
THIS TENDENCY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS TO EXALT A NATION is merely a fact, as sure as the Bible, witnessed in history, even when one makes allowance for some self-serving misuse of religion, whether individually or nationally. (Cf. e.g. pp. 95ff., Ch.7 supra; )
It is true to the depths and to the heights.
How much force on man, did HE use to forward His
views ? That of truth (cf. John 7:45-47, Mark 1:27), being crucified
by VIOLENCE as have many of his followers. With Him, it was with and from
a love presenting AT THAT VERY MOMENT of death's onset, a sacrifice for
those who would repent and through Him, then seek His Father (Matthew 20:28).
He is well able to forgive even murder - even His own! (Luke 23:24 - the
verb's form indicates that He was continuing
to ask His Father to forgive them, as they did not know
what they were doing)... Indeed, it was He who said this:
*1 It is the sheer folly of pretending there is a community, whether white or black, British or Japanese or whatever, which is in view. It is NOTHING to do with race; everything to do with reality. If there is diversity, let us note it, not suppress it by abusing vocabulary.
*2 See on this: SMR p. 973A, *23; and cf. SMR pp. 1088G-H (*20), 445-446, 729, 946-955, 1070ff., Barbs, Arrows and Balms 20, pp. 143ff..
*3 See News 28, 37, pp. 118ff.,42; Joyful Jottings 14, pp. 99ff..