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Wrestling Morrison's brand of Christianity

  • 29 November 2019


Australia is massively unprepared for monster fires and the health impacts from extreme weather due to climate change. It's the stuff of nightmares and yet the bogey I find hard to shake involves the surreal political inertia of Australia's federal government led by a Pentecostal prime minister.  

An insistence on business as usual represents such a huge values gulf, a point of conflict. I went in search of clarity by attending the first ever Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARCC) Conference held earlier this month. The timing of the conference could not have been more prescient. It began on Friday night 8 November with a welcome to country, as deep rainforest country near Lismore in northern New South Wales cried out from thirst with shouts of flame.

Kinship and ancient wisdom inspired people from around Australia to come together: Catholic friars, Muslim scholars, Buddhists, retired scientists and school teachers of Christian faith. Thea Ormerod of the ARCC told the crowd, 'We are struggling to maintain hope in the face of climate breakdown. We are here to show solidarity with others who care.'

Our warming planet is delivering what many forecast, reducing water and livelihoods. At the conference there was an acknowledgement of that; a lament, but also expectations of being recharged for the road ahead. 'We're not as strong as we thought we were,' one young man from the Uniting Church told me. An older gentleman with bright eyes, who practises Zen meditation, piped up, 'Don't forget meditation is a way to influence the world around you. Suffering can also be the agency for deep awakening.'

The barrier for me is the stubborn words and actions of a government that rants against 'indulgent and selfish practices' that threaten the mining sector and 'radical' activists of narrow dogma that 'pit cities against regional Australia'. Like many others, I am cranky about lost opportunity to act on the science, and about policies that condemn those living with poverty (those who will be hardest hit) and sacrifice our clean air. Surely, a man of faith wouldn't act this way?

His government (with an increasingly politicised media unable to help resolve an important national conversation) continues to support, with massive subsidies, extractive and exploitative industries that undeniably warm the planet and threaten the natural environment that underpins our life support systems.

How can this be a legitimate perspective as a publicly-confessing Christian? Why would this shepherd not want to move