By: City Bible Forum
A national conversation is taking place in Australia at the moment in the lead up to an historic event.
Only 44 times has a nationwide referendum been held in this country (and only 8 times has one been carried), but this year all Australians on the electoral roll will be required to vote “Yes” or “No” for an Indigenous Voice to parliament.
Already the issue is proving to divide people, even amongst Christians. The point of this article is not to persuade you which way to vote. It’s not even to help you better understand the issues to inform your vote. Rather it is to encourage you to see and take hold of the opportunities that this national conversation provides to go deeper in conversation with colleagues and friends, exploring with them ideas this referendum raises which are at the heart of the Christian faith.
Central to Christianity
At the heart of the Christian faith is the cross. It is God’s greatest demonstration of His love for us, and is the reason we are called to “go and do likewise”, loving our neighbour (and even our enemy).
But the cross speaks of more than just love; it also speaks of justice. A wrong had been done (our sin) which needed to be atoned for. Justice meant that God could not let us off without punishment, but in an extraordinary act of love He took the penalty we deserved. It is for this reason also that we are called to “go and do likewise”, seeking to right injustices.
And the cross also calls for a response. Each one of us who calls ourselves a Christian has humbly admitted our fault and repented for our sin. Again, this leads us to a life where we are quick to humble ourselves and admit fault and repent.
Extravagant love for our neighbours (even our enemies). Pursuing justice and seeking to right injustices. And humble repentance. These are just three ideas that are central to Christianity.
And each one of them is relevant to the discussion our nation is having around The Voice. For example, what would extravagant love for indigenous Australians look like in shaping how we vote? What injustices should we care to see put right, and how might The Voice help or hinder that? And in what ways might we need to admit fault and repent for past treatment of indigenous Australians, and how might The Voice contribute (or not) to that?
Permission to enter the worldview layer
In his book Evangelism in a sceptical world Sam Chan outlines three layers of a conversation. First we might talk about our interests, things like sport results, the weather, or what we did on the weekend. Going deeper we might then talk about our values, where we express opinions on what we think is good or bad, right or wrong, wise or unwise. Finally at the deepest level is the worldview layer, where we talk about the way we understand the world. It is our worldview that determines our values – what we believe about life, death, humanity, and truth.
Our worldview shapes our politics, and in particular, will shape (consciously or subconsciously) how we will vote about The Voice. Therefore the upcoming referendum gives us permission to at least enter the values layer in our conversations about it, if not the worldview layer. These are layers of conversation that we might not ordinarily reach with many people, including many of our colleagues.
So how might we take advantage of this opportunity to enter the worldview layer, and share our thoughts on issues like those mentioned above, and so give us the chance to share ideas central to our Christian faith? A simple way is to ask good questions.
Questions to ask
As the vote draws nearer a fairly uncontroversial question we might ask others is “Have you decided how you will vote?” Notice, we’re not asking them for their opinion, rather we’re opening the door to discussing what is helping them make their decision.
If the answer is yes, then we simply ask follow up questions about how they came to their decision. Don’t be afraid to ask a second (or third) follow up question like, “What helped you make that decision?”, “Were there particular views which persuaded you?”, or “How are other people you know making their decision?”.
If on the other hand they answer no, then again follow up questions can help us go deeper. For example, “How are you going to decide?”, “Are there particular views you lean towards?” or again, “How are other people you know making their decision?” Asking these kinds of questions allows us to go deeper and unearth the worldviews shaping how people make political decisions. Or our questions might instead reveal why this issue isn’t currently important to that person, which in turn opens up other avenues for worldview conversation with them.
When it’s your turn to speak
Inevitably though the opportunity will come for you to share what is helping you make your decision, and you can point to truths like those mentioned above. For example, you could speak of the importance of righting injustices against Indigenous Australians and how you understand The Voice to be helping or hindering in that. Or you could speak of the importance of love for others being the key factor which shapes how you make decisions like this.
You could share how personally challenging you can find it to consider the interests of others before your own, but that you are genuinely trying to put the needs of Indigenous Australians first in deciding how to vote.
Now this may be as far as the conversation goes. That’s ok! For some of us, this might be the first time we’ve ever reached the worldview layer of conversation with this person. Once we’ve been there once it will only make it easier to go there in the future.
However when we begin to talk about the importance of justice, or considering the needs of others before our own (or even a sense of repentance you might feel) the door opens to giving the reason why you hold these values. And in some instances you might be able to even say that it is your Christian faith, and in particular the example of Jesus, which motivates you in desiring to live this way.
Now to be clear, we’re not seeking to awkwardly crowbar our Christian faith into all these conversations, to the point that we’re making it about our faith rather than the interests of indigenous Australians. That would be a failure to actually consider the needs of others before our own! However this referendum does create the opportunity for us to safely enter the worldview layer of conversation with colleagues and friends, a layer of conversation that we might often not get to. And when we do, we should seek to take the opportunity to point to how the person and actions of Jesus shapes our whole lives, including how we will vote.