September 12 2020

Melbourne Sonographer Tells the Reality of Late-Term Abortions

The following is a testimony written by a sonographer working in Melbourne today. Their story dispels the myth that late-term abortions are extremely rare in Victoria and only ever carried out due to extreme foetal abnormalities.

The reality is, every year in Victoria over 300 human lives are terminated in the womb after 20 weeks. And, as this Melbourne sonographer shares, some are aborted for the most cosmetic of reasons.


A Sonographer’s Story

I have worked as a sonographer in Melbourne for over 10 years and can personally attest that non-medically indicated abortions occur at a high frequency and during all trimesters of pregnancy. Primarily, the reason cited is one simply of convenience. Without ever asking why, I’ve been told ‘it is not the right time’, ‘my family is already too big’, ‘I don’t have the energy’, ‘it was a surprise’ or ‘I’m not in a relationship’. 

I do not wish to convey judgement at this as much as simply explain the current state of affairs to those who may have been misinformed. Nonetheless, it is something that weighs heavily on my heart.

Mothers undergoing screening for abortion (which involves assessing the location, viability and gestational age of the pregnancy) often request not to view the child’s movements on the monitor, or hear their heartbeat – both of which are almost always clearly visible/audible at 6 weeks gestation, and sometimes earlier.

This seems to convey a state of willing and intentional ignorance. It tells me that the parents know this is not simply a clustered group of cells, but a living being whose termination is unambiguously immoral.  People often ask to look at their gallbladders or their kidneys – why not this?

If we don’t see or hear the consequence of our choices, then we can pretend they don’t exist. I, of course, am sufficiently practised at expressing no emotion (apart from understanding) when this request is made and always immediately comply. Who am I to judge? What right do I have to force them to see?

Less Than Perfect

One particular scan still bears its scars on my soul. The parents had presented for a routine morphology scan (21 weeks). During the scan I detected a minor defect known as a cleft palate. This is often an isolated finding, often purely cosmetic, and is readily correctable with minor surgery. I explained and reassured the parents of this and they left in seemingly good spirits. Not long after, I was informed that they had decided to terminate the pregnancy – against all medical advice. This was accompanied with a pat on the back, so to speak, for a job well done. 

My wife and I, almost without hesitation, internally requested an offer of adoption be forwarded to the parents as we felt that this would present an elegant solution – one that would allow the child to survive and the mother not to bear the weight of her decision, or suffer the horrible experience of a late-term abortion. This request was denied and there was no further way to proceed without breaching patient confidentiality, so they never received this offer. 

The child would have been close to 25 weeks by the time the abortion was performed, a stage of development where he may quite well have survived should the mother had given birth even then. 

We still think of this little boy who would have lived if not for an inconvenient blemish that made him less than perfect. Aren’t we all less than perfect? Why do some imperfections carry a death sentence? 

I often struggle to reconcile that the better I am at my job, the worse the outcome for the child.

I often struggle to reconcile that the better I am at my job, the worse the outcome for the child. Of course, I can never express these sentiments to patients, nor should I as a health professional. Every autonomous individual has the right to decide how their health is managed – and this must be so, else we would have a paternalistic system where the clinician’s values are forced upon the vulnerable. Yet, in over 10 years I have not once managed to reconcile this belief with the treatment of society’s most vulnerable, who are so easily discarded without ever having their voice heard.

“…so easily discarded without ever having their voice heard.”

Last year, concerns like the ones expressed by this sonographer were raised during the abortion debate in NSW. As the ABC reported, Dr Deborah Bateson, the Family Planning NSW Medical Director, was “concerned by some of the reporting during the debate that women might have late-term abortions for reasons such as cleft palates.”

When asked about this reality, she shrugged it off as a hoax. “Late-term abortions have been almost trivialised in some of these stories and we know this never happens,” she said.

Sadly, at least in Victoria, it absolutely does happen.

And Victoria’s inhumane abortion laws provides no protection whatsoever for those healthy late-term babies who are unlucky to be a little less than perfect

Please share this story and join with March for the Babies as we take a stand for both mothers and babies.

Thank you to the sonographer who shared his story with me and I have kept his name private for his protection.

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September 8 2020

Do We Need a St Valentine?

In Melbourne at the moment, weddings are banned until we achieve an average of less than 5 new cases of Covid-19 in the entire state AND that no new cases come from an unknown source, for two weeks straight.

That means that if there is an outbreak in a country town somewhere, then even if there are no cases of Covid-19 in the rest of Victoria, then no Melbournite will be able to get married (in the eyes of the State).

Not even if the minister social distances and wears a mask and performs the ceremony through livestream.
Not even if the witnesses are viewing it via Zoom.
Not even if you only have a group of 5 and everyone involved come from two households, even though during Step 2 the DHHS website says you are allowed to have outdoor “public gatherings – up to 5 people from a maximum of two households”… Just not for a wedding apparently.

To put this in perspective, since the 16th of March there has been only 6 DAYS that achieved that benchmark. That’s right, in the last 176 days, 170 of those days would have prevented people from being allowed to marry under the Victorian Government’s current standards.

The DHHS website states that this could possibly go on indefinitely as we will only be able to transition to Step 3 (where small weddings are allowed) “once the thresholds are met; there is no set date.”

There is a petition going around asking Dan Andrews to change his mind on banning weddings. I hope it is effective.

But if it doesn’t, and the wedding ban in Victoria goes on indefinitely, at what point do Christian couples just get married and worry about the formalities later?

At what point do we remember that marriage is not created by the Government. It is created by God. The State acknowledges it, registers it, records it and grants it certain legal rights and privileges. But the State does not make people married, nor can it ban people from making vows before God, with people witnessing (even if remotely).

History tells of the Roman Emperor Claudius II, who around 270AD apparently banned weddings for the sake of the Empire. It was thought that married men love their wives and children and so don’t join the military to go off to war as willingly.

The legend goes that St Valentine defied the law and married couples in secret because he saw marriage as not a right granted (or forbidden) by the government, but a sacrament given by God.

I’m not saying we should disobey the law, even over this issue. But I do think we need something of a St Valentine attitude. Marriage is a good gift from God, and like the ancient proverb from Nike says… maybe we should “Just Do It” and worry about the paperwork after we one day meet the crazily ambitious numbers the State has currently set.

Sign the petition:
http://chng.it/D4QK5CSJt5

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June 22 2020

The Lord’s Prayer – Woke Edition

The Lord’s Prayer is Jesus’ working example of how we should pray.

But many (including those who claim to follow him as Christ and Creator of the Universe) argue that Jesus was just a product of his times, and like problematic films like Aliens and The Goonies, much of the New Testament requires a disclaimer stating that Jesus’ teaching contains: “outdated attitudes, languages and cultural depictions which may cause offence today.”

The Xenomorphs were culturally appropriated

Now, we could just cancel Jesus, doxx him on social media and force him to quit his job as Saviour of the world.

Or, we could just update Jesus’ prayer to something less offensive…


The Lord’s Prayer – Woke Edition

Our [god, free of all gendered imagery],

Hallowed be your name [not that you care about all that stuff].

Your [democratic socialist autonomous zone] come,

[Our collective] will be done,

On earth as it is in [whatever concept of the spiritual realm sits best with you].

Give us today our daily bread [with a gluten-free option and maybe an alternative for those that are cutting down their carbs. Also could we get some butter?].

And forgive us our [<no alternative found>]

As we forgive those who [offend] us [after destroying their career].

[Let us lead ourselves] away from temptation [unless it’s sexy or chocolatey or both].

And deliver us from [ignorance and low self-esteem, because no one and nothing is truly “evil” deep down, just misunderstood].


ADDITIONAL ENDING FOR WOKE ANGLICANS:

For Thine is the [democratic socialist autonomous zone]

The Power [to the People!]

And the Glory [of each one of us living out our own truth]

Now and for [the next few years until the zeitgeist changes once again].

Amen

[also Awomen and Athosewhodontidentifybyanygender]


If you want a slightly more serious reflection of what I think about The Lord’s Prayer, check out this article I wrote for The Gospel Coalition Australia: “Our Father Who Art in Parliament”.

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March 5 2020

6 People Buying Toilet Paper

PERSON 1 – Reads some article somewhere that toilet paper might run out if Coronavirus hits our shores.

PERSON 2 – Thinks person 1 is silly for believing that article but sees them buying all the toilet paper and doesn’t want to be left with none, so buys a bunch as well.

PERSON 3 – Hasn’t read any article but sees persons 1 & 2 buying toilet paper and concludes there must be a national shortage and so buys whatever toilet paper they can.

PERSON 4 – Just ran out of toilet paper at home and just wants to find a couple of rolls. Takes a photo of empty supermarket shelves and posts it to social media expressing how silly it is that people are freaking out.

PERSON 5 – Sees multiple photos of empty supermarket shelves on social media and completely freaks out. They go on Ebay and pay $100 for a roll of toilet paper thinking it might be the last there is.

PERSON 6 – Bought a bunch of toilet paper early and is selling it on Ebay. They wrote the article and sent it to person 1.

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September 16 2019

The Foetus, The Heretic & The Evangelical – a parable

A foetus was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by abortionists. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

An evangelical happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the foetus, he passed by on the other side because it wasn’t a gospel issue.

But a heretic, as he travelled, came where the foetus was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

After a while, the evangelical felt bad that he hadn’t helped the foetus and so he went to the inn where the foetus was being cared for.

But when he saw that a heretic was helping the foetus and had provided bandages, oil, wine, a donkey and financial support, the evangelical began to worry that if he helped as well, those watching might associate him with the heretic and his heresy.

In fact, he thought, the heretic probably only took the foetus to that inn to look good in order to promote their heretical ideas.

The evangelical immediately went home to write a scathing review of the inn to warn all other decerning travellers not to go there due to its secretive association with the heretic.

Meanwhile, the foetus, not knowing or caring who came to their assistance, rested, recovered and thanked the person sitting next to them for their kindness.

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August 9 2019

12 Pro-Choice Arguments for Slavery

12 Pro-Choice Arguments for Slavery

  • The problem with slavery is that when it’s illegal it drives it underground. We need to remove it from the criminal law and make it a matter of civil regulation.
  • If we ban slavery, do you know how many slave owners may get harmed or arrested from illegally trying to keep slaves?
  • If we don’t allow the slave trade, people will just go to a nearby country that does.
  • Those who claim that slaves are human beings made in the image of God and deserving of human rights are just using a religious argument.
  • If you disagree with slavery, don’t own one!
  • Forcing slave owners to give up their slaves is robbing them of their financial autonomy.
  • My plantation, my choice!
  • It’s a personal matter, to be decided between a slave-owner and his slave-trader.
  • Slaves can’t survive on their own apart from the resources given by their owners. Until they can, they are just a clump of cells.
  • Some slave owners just can’t financially survive without slaves. Banning slavery just hurts the poor.
  • Unless you own a plantation, you have no right to have an opinion on slavery.
  • Can you believe we are still being limited by an archaic law criminalising slavery in Australia that was introduced way back in 1833??
The Violinist Slave

And one final illustration…

Let me ask you to imagine this.

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious slave. A famous unconscious violinist slave.

He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Emancipation Society has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the slave’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own.

The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Emancipation Society did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the slave is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.”

Now, here is my question…

Are you morally obligated to accept this situation?

No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accept it?

Shouldn’t you be free to unplug yourself from this slave?

And not just that. Shouldn’t you be free to kill the slave in whatever way seems best to you? Shouldn’t you be free to suck him up a tube or have his limbs dismembered and his skull crushed if that’s the most efficient way to be free?

Even if you discover that the slave is not just some random stranger, but as it turns out, your own flesh and blood. Your own son in fact. Even if you are the slave’s mother, shouldn’t you be free from any obligation to him? Shouldn’t you have the freedom to kill your son to gain your freedom from your son?

Even if your son the slave actually was not taken from another place and unnaturally attached to you, but naturally came into being attached to you, shouldn’t you be able to claim he has no right to be there? Even if he could not actually be expected to be anywhere else, shouldn’t you have the right to kill him?

Even if (in over 95% of cases) the Emancipation Society did not actually attach this slave to you against your will, but you were also responsible for him being attached. Even though only the slave is the true innocent victim in this scenario, shouldn’t you be free to kill him if you now want to be free of that attachment?

The answer is obvious.


If you were not aware, the above illustration is my parody of the famous pro-choice thought experiment, often called “The Violinist”.

The original was written in 1971 by Judith Jarvis Thomson in the introduction to her essay “A Defense of Abortion” and despite its glaringly obvious flaws (which my parody has attempted to highlight) it is still today often presented as the knock-out pro-choice argument.

Acknowledgments also to David Ould & Jereth Kok for contributing a couple of the “Pro-Choice arguments for slavery”.

If you can think of any more, please write them in the comments.

Or if you are pro-choice and think that the parallel I have suggested that exists between abortion and slavery is an unfair one, please comment as well.

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February 12 2019

When Google Learned the Gospel

Back around March last year, I noticed that when I asked my Google Home about Jesus, it responded like an overly polite person at a party who had just been asked about some controversial issue of theology:

“Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning.”

Yeah, right Google! Don’t give us that fake humility. You’re just afraid to nail your colours to the mast!

Who Do You Say I Am?

Well, to give Google a break, there are many different views about Jesus amongst Google’s customers. Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet but not divine. Jews believe he is a teacher but not a prophet. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe he is the Archangel Michael and some skeptics even doubt Jesus existed at all!

Even back when Jesus walked the streets of the Middle East, there were lots of views about who he was. Jesus actually asked his disciples this very question:

“And on the way [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”” 
(Mark 8:27-29)

So at least the disciples understand who Jesus was and what he came to do… Well, not exactly. Peter did initially answer the question correctly, but in the very next few verses, it all goes downhill. Jesus tells his disciples that he has come to die on the cross and that same Peter pulls Jesus aside and rebukes him for getting his mission wrong (see Mark 8:30-33)!

Fortunately, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples finally came to more fully understand who he was and what he had come to do. This is seen in the clarity of the unanimous testimony about Jesus’ identity throughout the New Testament gospels and epistles. If you want to know who Jesus is, it is shouted from every page of the New Testament.

There are many passages I could point to, but one of the boldest (and my favourite) comes from Colossians 1:15-20…

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Google’s Still Learning

Despite this, I do understand Google’s tentativeness in giving a definitive answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” It is an important question and much of the population of the world disagree on the answer.

Also, to cut Google even more slack, last year they made it a policy to answer “Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning”, no matter which major religious figure you asked about.

They received a lot of criticism at the time from people who suspected Google of deliberately targeting Christianity and this was Google’s official attempt at explaining their reasoning:

A New Answer

Well, that was a year ago, and gone is the answer “Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning”.  Religion may still be complicated, but Google seems to have done some learning. Or at least, whatever algorithm they had set up to side-step the taboo topic of religion, they have now opened the doors to allow Wikipedia to answer your religious questions.

I discovered this recently when I asked my Google Home the questions “Who is Jesus?” and “Who was Jesus?”, and I was rather surprised by the way it answered…

To “Who is Jesus?” Google replied:

“The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s will as revealed in the Old Testament, and he is the Lord of the Church. He is the “Son of David”, a “king”, and the Messiah.”

To “Who was Jesus?” Google replied:

“Jesus (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity and is widely described as the most influential person in history.”

Both pretty good answers if you ask me!

In fact, after a bit of experimenting, I found a few other questions that have great answers. If you’ve got Google Assistant, try these out:

  • What is God?
  • What is the gospel?
  • What is the only rule of faith and practice?
  • What is the chief end of man?

Now as fun as it is to ask Google questions, you don’t need to own the latest voice-activated technology to ask “Who is Jesus?”. The answer is not found in the robotic voice of Google, but in the living Word of God. My hope is that if you are curious about the identity of Jesus, you might pick up a bible and read one of the gospels or New Testament epistles for yourself. Two thousand years after he asked it, Jesus’ question to his disciples still echoes to each one of us: “But who do you say I am?”

Google was right last year when it said that religion can be complicated. The answer to the important question of Jesus’ identity is neither simple nor easy. But like Google seems to have done in the last year, there is indeed much to be learned.

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January 5 2019

A Goodie and a Baddie go to the Temple

To some who were too familiar with Bible stories, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a tax collector and the other a Pharisee. The tax collector stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am a character in bible stories that is known for being a marginalised outcast who you’re supposed to sympathise with, not like the obvious villains in the story – the teachers of the law, the Jewish rulers, the rich, the powerful – or even like this Pharisee. I’m always the one that Jesus wants to eat with and the one that in the end, you are supposed to want to emulate.’

“But the Pharisee stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that the Pharisee, rather than the tax collector, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

(adapted from Luke 18:9-14)

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December 4 2018

A Bad Pro-Life Argument About “Life”

A Bad Pro-Life Argument About “Life”

I am passionate about being pro-life. But I am also passionate about pro-lifers (or anyone for that matter) using logically sound and robust arguments. I studied logic at University and I have always loved learning about this stuff and knowing when a seemingly strong argument is actually quite weak and full of holes. An argument like the one in the picture above, can sound compelling. It can even feel like a real “gotcha” line that clearly exposes the logical inconsistency of the other side, but as I hopefully will explain, I think it actually does the opposite.

Ok. First of all, let me acknowledge that I understand the sentiment and the argument that the sign is trying to make. Society is hypocritical in the way that it might value one form of life and not another, and if life was found on another planet it would be celebrated, but when life is found in the womb it can so easily be discarded.

But let me try to explain where this sign technically falls down.

(this is my own daughter’s heartbeat in the womb)

 

The sign asks the rhetorical question “Why would a bacteria be considered life on Mars and a heartbeat not be considered life on Earth?”. The suggestion is obviously, that some pro-choice people say that a fetus in the womb with a heartbeat is still not a “life” or not “alive”. This is very true and I have had this said to me before. But it is also true that when a pro-choicer is talking about whether a fetus is a “life”, they are not meaning in the same sense that a Martian bacteria might be called a “life”. 99 times out of 100, they are talking about a fetus not being a human person or being a life in the same sense that you or I am. They generally acknowledge that there is something alive in the womb, but they might say it is part of the mother’s body or that it’s just a “blob of tissue” or even that it is a “parasite” or a “tumor”.

In fact, despite what the sign suggests, many pro-choicers would happily say that that thing in the womb is just like bacteria. Like bacteria, they might say, it has no right to life and if you had bacteria living inside you and you didn’t want it, you would have every right to kill it.

Not Necessarily Hypocrisy

The key problem with the sign is that it suggests that pro-choicers are acknowledging that bacteria is alive but denying that a fetus is. Firstly, I don’t think that second statement is true generally, and if it is, it is usually because they are simply using the word “life” to mean different things. That’s not hypocrisy really. That’s just the complexity of the English language.

For example, would you say that a sperm cell is a “life”? Not usually I presume. That’s why, despite what we might think about the morality of masturbation, we don’t equate it with abortion. But, if a sperm cell was found on Mars, we probably would say that “life was found on Mars”, we might even say “human life was found on Mars” (if it was a human sperm cell).

The use of “life” is just different for different contexts, and we definitely don’t want to make the argument that every single thing that is “alive” should be considered a “life” in the same way that a fetus is. If we do that, we’ll be joining PETA to protest the “murder” of all animals, or we’ll be worried about every alive blade of grass that we step on.

The pro-life sign at the top of this article tries to point out the hypocrisy of the pro-choice side in how they use the word “life” and care for one living thing but not another, but it actually also exposes this same supposed hypocrisy on the pro-life side.

Josh Brahm from the US-based Equal Rights Institute (who is also my hero and mentor when it comes to discussing abortion) says that whenever the topic of “life” comes up in the abortion debate says that he always asks the following clarification question: “Do you mean biological life, or something more philosophical, like when a person with rights and value begins?”

He has a great article on this topic: CLICK HERE.

In it he concludes:
“The most important concept is that when somebody starts talking about ‘life’ in the abortion debate, don’t make another step before clarifying whether they’re talking about biological life or something more philosophical. Then you can respond to their argument without accidentally committing a straw man fallacy.”

That’s what this sign fails to do. It presumes that the two uses of the word “life” are talking about the same thing. Which in reality is almost never the case, for both pro-choicers and pro-lifers.

Brainstorming a Better Sign

Now, it’s easy to simply poke holes in a bad sign and a bad argument. But what would be a better sign that points out a legitimate area of pro-choice hypocrisy on the issue of “life”?

I’ve had a bit of a brainstorm and here’s a couple I came up with:

They’re not perfect, but I feel they maybe have less logical holes than the original.

Tell me what you think in the comments below, and maybe post your own suggestions!

 

 

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July 9 2018

Our Father who art in Parliament

(Photo credit: MARK GRAHAM/AFP/Getty Images)

How God got into Parliament

Every day in Australia, the President of the Senate is required to open parliament by reciting the following words:

Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.

Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The inclusion of these words were added in 1903 after a petition by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of NSW, and apart from a slight amendment here and there, they have remained unchanged for 115 years.

Not that there hasn’t been opposition. The first motion for the prayer’s removal was put forward in 1997 by senator Bob Brown, the first leader of The Greens. More recently, Greens senators Richard Di Natale and Lee Rhiannon have taken up the cause.

Senator Lee Rhiannon initially raised her objections in 2003 on the 100 year aniversary of the prayer’s inclusion, but 15 years of trying hasn’t detered her. When she spoke to ABC Insider last year, she revealed that she was still very determined to see the prayer’s removal, saying, “It is actually insulting the way parliament is opened. Considering there’s many people who aren’t religious, there’s many people of different faiths, it is time we started having an institution that is relevant to the 21st century.”

Now, just a month or so before Rhiannon retires from politics, she is giving it one last go, and this time, The Greens might be successful. On the 27th of June 2018, Rhiannon announced:

“Today the Senate has supported a Greens motion requiring the Senate Procedure Committee to set up an inquiry into changing the Senate opening from a Christian prayer to an inclusive statement.” 

The motion proposes that this “inclusive statement” should be the following:

“Senators, let us in silence pray or reflect upon our responsibilities to all people of Australia and to future generations.”

The Green’s motion also suggests that as they consider this change they should “consult with all senators” and “invite submissions and take evidence in public session”. So, if you feel passionately either way on this issue, I encourage you to get involved in the democratic process and voice your opinion! Write to your senators. Start a petition, if you like. Remember, it was a petition from Christians that got The Lord’s Prayer into the Senate over a century ago. Maybe you can be one of the voices that helps decide whether it stays or goes.

It may surprise you though… I actually agree with The Greens on this one.

Giving God Lip Service

Now, agreeing with them on this is not easy to admit (and not simply because I rarely agree with The Greens on many topics). If I’m honest, I really like those powerful words being read every day in Parliament. They describe God as Almighty and our Heavenly Father. They call out to God for help and provision, guidance and forgiveness. They refer to politicians as servants of God whose goal is to advance God’s glory, God’s kingdom and the welfare of the Australians they represent. These are all concepts that I deeply believe. I would truly love every politician to say and believe these words as they begin every day of public service. It warms my heart that these words are spoken in Parliament, but I suspect that is probably because I am a superficial human. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

The reality is, whilst I would love for every politician to believe the words of the prayer that opens the Senate, I know most of them don’t. Now, some would argue that forcing non-Christians (if only the Senate President) to publicly recite the Lord’s Prayer every day may inspire them to be more humble and mindful of their Creator, but I don’t see any Biblical precedent for suggesting that. In fact, I think the bible consistently teaches the opposite. The outward expression of religious affection with no inward conviction doesn’t warm God’s heart. It turns His stomach.

One of the clearest expressions of this is found in the opening chapter of the book of Isaiah the prophet, where God expresses how deeply He hates the performance of hollow religious rituals.

“’What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?’ says the Lord; ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.'” (Isaiah 1:11-15)

When we read these strong words we must remember that God isn’t saying He hates the idea of the sacrificial system. He gave it to the people of Israel. No, He is saying that He hates hypocrisy. God expands this idea later in the book of Isaiah when He says:

“…this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13)

In Matthew 15:7-9, when Jesus sees the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he quotes this verse saying that Isaiah wasn’t simply talking about the people of his day, he was also prophesying about all types of religious hypocrisy.

I would argue that God’s words condemning religious lip service should also apply to the daily repetition of the Lord’s Prayer in parliament. The words are great. But that is all they are – words. In repeating this prayer, most of our politicians honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far from Him.

Now I am sure that there are politicians over the last 115 years that have prayed those words every day with an earnest humility. But I would think that any genuine Christian does not require their secular workplace (which the Senate is) to supplement their own private times of prayer. To have this prayer read at the daily opening of parliament suggests that the parliament itself believes these words. This is quite obviously not the case. At least not any more. We may have started off with a general Christian veneer over our society and parliament, but that veneer is quickly being peeled off.

I actually think that may be an important process for the West to go through. As the cultural Christianity is peeled away, the genuine church has an opportunity to shine. Like many Christians, I do feel a deep grief in admitting that many of my friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours do not love Jesus or know God as their Heavenly Father as I wish they did. I do worry for our nation as the Christian worldview becomes more and more alien. But we should not put our energy into gluing back on a Christian veneer that is cracked and peeling. We don’t help our nation become more “Christian” by forcing the daily recitation of Christian prayers by non-Christian Senate Presidents. People become followers of Christ by hearing the gospel in the mouths and seeing it in the lives of genuine Christians.

Pray then like this

The more I hear some prominent Christians present their argument for why The Lord’s Prayer should remain in parliament the less I am convinced. The Australian Christian Lobby for example, describes the Lord’s Prayer as “an important part of Australia’s cultural heritage” with the ACL managing director Lyle Sheldon suggesting “prayer in parliament recognises western cultural heritage”.

This view treats the reading of The Lord’s Prayer like an ancient religious artifact in a museum that is deserving of protection due to its historic significance. It was never meant to be treated like this.

If you go back to where Jesus actually introduced his disciple’s to the words of The Lord’s Prayer, you see that he gave it – not as a formula or words to be repeated for public religious theatre – but as an example of how his followers ought to pray in private.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:5-13)

You can see from this passage, these words of Jesus were possibly never meant to be used as an official prayer. Jesus wasn’t prescribing for us exactly WHAT we should pray – he was teaching us HOW we should pray. And the contrast between Jesus’ teaching and the way that his words are daily recited in parliament couldn’t be clearer.

Jesus tells his followers they must not pray like a hypocrite. They must not pray just for the outward show of a religious observance. They must not heap up empty phrases over and over as if God will be impressed by their many words. Rather, Jesus tells us that when Christians pray they should go in their room, shut the door and talk one on one with their Heavenly Father.

Now, I do think there is a place for public prayer (see John 11:41-42 for example), but generally, prayer is not for others to hear. It’s not even for God to hear, as Jesus teaches us that God already knows what we need. Prayer is for the fostering of intimate communion between a child of God and their Heavenly Father. It is an act of private Christian dependence, not public secular performance.

Our Father and Theirs

It does grieve me that our culture is becoming less prayerful. It does sadden me that there seems to be a push by some to remove the expression of great Christian truths from the public sphere.

But more than this, it saddens me what The Lord’s Prayer has become.

It was never meant to be used as a political tool in the culture wars. It was never meant to be treated as merely a symbol of our Christian heritage.

These precious and intimate words were given by Jesus to his disciples for so much more than to protect us from the slippery slope of secularism… So let’s not waste time fighting to save our culture by keeping The Lord’s Prayer in parliament. Rather, let us prayerfully go out into our culture and share the good news about Jesus, so that in Christ our fellow citizens can come to know that “Our Father in Heaven” can be their Heavenly Father as well.

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