Exactly what kind of Bible is being read by all these
evangelical Christians: the ones who have voted George Bush back
into the White House? Do they have a special copy which skips the
passage about the "meek inheriting the Earth"?
In their copy, is the world inherited instead by the sleek or
the bleak, or perhaps by the clique - that group of defence
contractors and petrol-pumpers surrounding the President? Does it
approve of the coveting of one's neighbour's ass, because that's
aspirational, but not his arse, because that's gay and therefore
Does their copy say you can extract revenge by attacking someone
unconnected with the original crime, as has happened in Iraq? Does
it say that a War in Error can replace a War on Terror?
Have they a Bible which celebrates the transfer of resources
from the poor to the rich through tax cuts; even unto billionaires
such as Bill Gates (the Geek who will inherit the Earth). Is
there a passage about Alaska, and the God-given right to drill for
oil? And does their Bible bless the moneylenders, as this
military and social charabanc runs up its ever-more staggering
Bush is the most divisive and geopolitically radical president
in living memory, and yet he has been put there again by the
Christian vote. All that time I spent at Sunday school,
fashioning little lambs out of cotton wool and Clag glue, must have
given me the wrong idea about these people. In Sydney, in the
Sunday school of the '60s, they all seemed, if anything, a bit wet.
It was all about peace and love and helping those less fortunate
The teachers themselves seemed fragile and delicate, as if they
too were fashioned out of cotton wool and Clag: the ladies with
their wispy white hair, haloed around their head, and thin, bony
limbs that looked as if they were made from twisted pipe-cleaners.
Maybe that's why they worked us so hard at craft: it would be up to
us to make a fresh generation of teachers once these ones passed
But, even as we twisted the pipe-cleaners into the shepherd's
crook, we knew these people defined an idea of goodness: kindness,
self-sacrifice, peace. We took them to be the Christian values.
No longer. Over there at least, there's nothing wispy or fragile
about what seems to be the defining brand of Christian, with their
belief in war, wealth and welfare-reform. Look at the voting
patterns and they sure are good haters: many of them tempted into
voting for the first time by the chance to condemn gay marriage.
Hate got them out of bed and voting in a way love never did.
So what do these Bushite Christians make of the Bible and its
scenes of Jesus washing the feet of the poor? Talk about rewarding
the lazy: they should be washing the feet of the rich, under a
work-for-the-dole scheme. Ditto all those prostitutes, beggars and
thieves, with whom Jesus is always hanging out. Surely that can't
In his book The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of
George W. Bush, published this year, the philosopher Peter
Singer compares Bush's policies with his professed Christian
beliefs. Singer demonstrates that, judged against the central
principles of the Bible, Bush's actions don't stack up.
When Singer came on my ABC radio show, I suggested he had used a
pretty large hammer to crack a pretty small nut: surely no one
imagines Bush is simply acting out Christian beliefs. They would
see him as just another politician, wouldn't they: in this case
following a neo-conservative ideology, while posing in the raiments
I now accept I was wrong. Singer has used a big hammer, but,
boy, these are pretty big nuts. On Tuesday, millions voted on what
they took to be Christian values: 21 per cent said they voted on
"moral values" ahead of the war or the economy. I now think
Singer's book, with its methodical arguments from biblical sources,
should be given to every evangelical in the US. We could start by
smuggling it into every hotel room: we could call it Gideon
Some say this faith-based politics is now coming to Australia,
with Family First in the Senate and arguments about abortion and
homosexuality. I just hope we keep a little of the traditional
Australian tolerance and, yes, levity.
Which brings us to the late parliamentarian Fred Daly. In his
book From Curtin to Kerr, Daly recounts one of the early
debates over abortion within the Labor Party.
"I just don't know what to do about the abortion bill," one
worried backbencher confides to another. Comes the response: "Mate,
if I were you, I'd pay it."
By all means, have a laugh. After this week, I reckon we need
© 2004 The Sydney Morning Herald