Are we there yet? Because I’ve already left the bus, and I don’t think I’m alone. This never-ending election campaign reminds me of another never-ending story — of the age-old disappointment in political machinery captured by the phrase 'Caesar is not lord'.
That's what the early Christian church meant when they struck upon the now familiar affirmation 'Jesus is Lord'. It wasn't pious or proper; it was political and more than a little divisive. And the subtext was heavy: Caesar, the political ruler of the moment, is therefore not lord.
Because Caesar, it seems, is too easily captive to the priorities of the world. This is not news. It's been no picnic watching the promises unfold each day of this election campaign. From the tone-setting opening act we might call 'tax cuts for beginners' or 'people worried about their seats' onwards, the election protagonists have wanted to persuade us that life will be good with them in charge.
But all they've got me asking is, are we there yet? And where would 'there' be anyway? At this stage I'm tempted to think just having the election out of the way might be enough. But what kind of place are we going to live in when it's over? It's got me downright cranky just thinking about it. I feel quite a bit like the early church contemplating the local Caesar — hell, no, he's not my lord!
Traditionally, as we know, Australians like to keep religion separate, rendering unto Caesar that which is political. So even just raising the question of faith in voting can be controversial, and the campaign hasn't been without its share of flack regarding the political influence of Christians.
While the Christian Lobby was releasing statements on how to make your faith count in voting, the front page was fanning controversy about which politicians have connections with which of the more extreme Christian groups — and Bob Brown (unlikely spokesperson of the church!) was offering sound bites admonishing against letting one Christian group speak as though they represent them all.
So it seems that winning over Christian voters is an issue already on the table. So despite the Aussie instinct to avoid mixing faith and politics, perhaps some help in this respect is in order. If you're a candidate for Caesar and you want the Christian vote, then here's some advice.
First up, you're in a tough spot because at the end of the day, for Christians, Jesus is still Lord. But given we get some say in Caesar-selection these days, it's worth your while checking out Jesus to work out how to really appeal to Christian elements in the electorate.
From the get-go you'll realise a few things, like that the Christian vote can't be bought. You can put away your tax plan, because what you've presented so far really isn't our thing.
You might have noticed that tax collectors aren't very popular in the Gospels, not because they haven't been buying enough people off but because of an endemic practice of cheating the poor. So that'd be something to watch out for if you're putting together a tax plan to appeal to Christian voters. Taking money from the poor and passing it on to the middle class will not sit well with us.
And then there's the subject of consultation. Christian voters are not that keen on trigger-happy decision-making. It might seem popular to look like you're doing something, whether in some international conflict zone, or in communities closer to home. But when you're dealing with people, you actually need to meet some in order to make sure you're pursuing the right course of action.
Jesus used to get to know people — particularly those who society often shunned or ignored — by sitting down with them over a meal. So those who follow him will be looking for political leadership that knows the human face affected by their policies. They'll look to leaders who find ways to listen, especially to those on the fringes of society, who might need more than an opinion poll to be heard.
The advice could keep flowing. But pretty soon (thank goodness), this election campaign will actually end. However, the debate about good leadership will not. The focus will move from vote-winning to the everyday business of governing.
But, for whoever is elected to the pleasure, as Caesar you can always expect to wake up to the niggling, persistent voice of those for whom Jesus is Lord. And the long history of disappointment with Caesar's approach won't put an end to that.
Kylie Crabbe lives in Northcote and is preparing for ministry in the Uniting Church.