"Today as I was sitting in a doctor's surgery flipping through a 2007 issue of New Idea all of a sudden an advertisement for the Australian Sex Party (ASP) came on the TV. I'm even more gob smacked as the advertisement had a major focus on religion. It turns out that ASP has two major policies about taxing churches and the separation of church and state.
In the first advert, ASP spokesperson Fiona Patten commends churches for their charity work, of which she heartily approves and she is quite happy for that work to remain tax-exempt. But Patten questions the tax free privileges churches enjoy when it pertains to business ventures such as breakfast cereals (i.e., Sanitarium which is owned by the Seventh Day Adventist church) and music studios (i.e., Hillsong Church in Sydney owns some studios). Patten claims to represent the weight of public opinion when she states that "most Australians would believe that churches should pay their fair share of tax."
Now I do think religious organizations should come under scrutiny with respect to their tax-exempt status, especially when it pertains to the running of commercial ventures that compete with local businesses. That applies to areas such as medical centres, fast food restaurants, and other commercial ventures even when they are used to fund charitable work. That said, a few responses need to be made.
One of the key issues for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in this election is the social issue of same-sex marriage. He conveniently changed his opinion when it became a decisive factor in the party room and has continued to push this line because he knows that it may be one platform that makes him more popular than the leader of the Opposition.
About a month ago he released a promo video specifying that if he was re-elected (hmm, let's try elected) he would see “marriage equality” pass within 100 days. Upon this news being broadcast to the horrible reality-television show Big Brother all the contestants eyes welled up and the camera cut in on the face of a contestant who is presumably (by the amount of time spent on his reaction) a homosexual.
As Christians we should feel a great deal of anguish over Rudd's position on this issue. Particularly in light of several comments he has made this week.
Firstly on Q&A when presented with Matthew 19:5 he responded: “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition. Because St Paul said in the New Testament, “Slaves be obedient to your masters.” And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war. I mean, for goodness sake, the human condition and social conditions change. What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. Loving your fellow man. And if we get obsessed with a particular definition of that through a form of sexuality, then I think we are missing the centrality of what the gospel, whether you call it a social gospel, a personal gospel or a spiritual gospel, is all about....”
Elsewhere Sandy Grant has written an excellent response to Rudd’s ridiculous claim that “the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition” (2:26 in the video above). I won’t write more about that except to quote Sandy:
I am appalled at how this national leader, publicly claiming “an informed conscience and a Christian conscience”, misrepresented the Holy Book of the faith he confesses, on its teaching on one matter (slavery) to avoid its teaching on another matter (of marriage), in order to justify his abandonment of that biblical teaching.
It is naïve in the extreme—just a poor reading strategy—to assume an endorsement of an institution or activity, simply because it is recorded without particular narrative assessment at one point, or because it is regulated—for what might be called harm-minimisation, or an ethic of retrieval—at another point.
Let’s be clear. Even a cursory reading of the Bible would tell you it never says slavery is a “natural condition”. Never. Not once.