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The rise of the Greens: politics and the supernatural

By David Castles - posted Thursday, 14 July 2011

With the rise of The Greens in Australia the religious believer may well be wondering where they will stand in a possible new political order. Up until now the main religious enemies of The Greens seem to come from right wing faith based groups mainly concerned with the seemingly ongoing "moral" issues such as abortion, voluntary euthanasia, gay marriage and opposition to so called "chaplains" in secular public schools.

The rhetoric however has ramped up considerably after last year's federal election when it was apparent that The Greens' electoral successes in both houses had turned a small minority party into a large minority party. This, to some, represents a threat of major proportions well into the future.

In a right-winged rant published in Quadrant magazine earlier this year, Liberal front bencher Kevin Andrews wrote that the Greens "objective involves a radical transformation of the culture that underpins Western civilization."


Their agenda would threaten the "Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment synthesis that upholds the individual," as well as the "the economic system that has resulted in the creation of wealth and prosperity for the most people in human history," according to Andrews.

Andrews goes on to link The Greens with Communism, and after much convoluted logic complete with lost threads and dead ends, he concludes that (the Green movement) "involves the creation of a new pagan belief system, concerned not with the relationship between humans and a creator, but based on a deification of the environment."

This statement, although contradictory and ignorant, virtually says it all. The Greens are an alternate religion encroaching on the turf rightfully held by the established churches.

The word "Pagan" (from the Latin paganus) means "country dweller" and was coined by the early Roman church as an insulting description of non-monotheistic beliefs. Even worse than being a Pagan is the Greens' apparent "denial of a creator" who has been replaced by a belief in some sort of animism. Other intellectual luminaries such as Senator Barnaby Joyce have echoed some of Andrews' ideas.

Catholic Cardinal Pell, mentor to opposition leader Tony Abbot, describes the Greens as "anti-Christian" and (surprisingly for a virginal bachelor) "opposed to the notion of family."

Cardinal Pell goes on: "One wing of the Greens are (sic) like watermelons - green outside and red inside - a number were Stalinists supporting Soviet oppression.


We all accept the necessity of a healthy environment but Green policies are impractical and expensive which will not help the poor. For those who value our present way of life, the Greens are sweet camouflaged poison."

I have to caste my mind back to the ugly days in the 1950s so as to remember a religious leader speaking about a political party in this manner.

None of these accusations and slurs are confirmed by either the Greens' policy or actions. They have spoken out against The Brethren but are enamoured with the Dalai Lama. They have a policy against vilification of any kind and have criticized the policy of funding "chaplains" in secular public schools.

They have a stance on a number of moral/ethical issues that offend certain religious groups and have the support of others. Nowhere do they deny the existence of a god or promote any sort of alternative theology.

Many of The Greens supporters and members count themselves as standard mainstream religious believers. In an article defending the Greens as being "anti-religious," ACT Greens candidate Lin Hatfield Dodds, a Christian and former national director of Uniting Care wrote:

"There are a significant number of Australians whose values and faith mean that they will support the Greens. There are a significant number of Australians whose values and faith mean that they will support either the ALP or the Coalition. God is beyond human limitations; we should not, and cannot, seek to reduce the movement of God to our own framework of political or moral values."

These are obviously not the beliefs of an animist or even (shock horror) an atheist Communist. These are the musings of a Post Modernist Christian who is wholeheartedly a fan of the supernatural realm of an all-powerful unseen god, presumably the same entity that George Pell and Kevin Andrews worship each Sunday.

Why then does a political party, which does not have overtly anti-religious policies and include among their numbers good Bible believing Christians, receive the bile directed at them by the likes of Kevin Andrews and George Pell? What is it that so offends these defenders of the faith and their fellow travellers?

Unlike atheists who, according to the faithful, wander alone, unloved and unnoticed in an amoral wasteland of non-belief, the Green movement has managed the unimaginable, the unthinkable.

The Greens have presented what appears to be an alternative to religious superstition that is palatable, logical, clear, positive, focused and most frightening of all, appeals to the spiritual without using a contrived theology based on death, guilt and fear.

A spiritual belief system without postulating an all-powerful god of morals is a frightening concept to the rigid Theo-political mind. Andrews and Pell can hardly be blamed for comparing the Green movement to Communism given their 1950s political worldview and late Iron Age religious beliefs.

However, they can rest easy for now, but not forever. No political party in Australia would dare to be overtly anti-religious fearing the loss of votes that, as a left-leaning party, they probably didn't have anyway.

Religious leaders will continue to claim to speak for a huge non-existent flock and will continue to run their supernatural charities, investments, enormous property portfolios, lobby groups and enjoy their organization's tax free status while moralizing and pontificating to the very tax payers that are forced to keep them in business.

Do the "Forces of Righteousness" really have anything to fear from the Greens? Is their anxiety unfounded? The answer probably depends on how future events unfold.

The Greens could stay focused and united and continue on their upward path. Alternatively, they could lose their way and like the Democrats, sink into oblivion. At present it would be fair to say that Pell and Andrews should have a nice cup of tea and relax with a Good Book.

There will be no great moral outrage in the offing in the short term. There would however be ominous signs should the Greens really become influential beyond their environment credentials.

The first sign could include mention of a change to the constitution to make our Commonwealth a true secular state. At present it is not and the vague mention of religion in section 116 of the constitution has served mainstream churches well over the last one hundred or so years. This confusion has enabled the public funding of church businesses like schools, "charities," employment services and even a health food company.

A clear separation of church and state would prevent professional church operatives from lurking around our state schools. Hopefully as part of a general movement towards an Australian republic, we will see calls for other constitutional reforms. A real separation of church and state would be a priority for many.

The Greens are not the cause, but a symptom of a new agenda in politics. Educated young people are moving away from ancient belief systems that do not deliver a better living environment.

The old forces of organised superstition and moral authority are increasingly anxious that they are swimming against the tide of progress, rational thinking and enlightened education. Expect them to be increasingly loud and shrill.

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About the Author

David Castles has retired from university life in science and engineering to pursue a long held interest in theology, history and social issues. David’s diverse career ranges from soldier, rock musician to TAFE teacher, electronics engineer and computer programmer and is happy to admit that he has never been enrolled at any university, anywhere.

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