If there is actually such thing as the "Christian vote", on Monday night, Kevin Rudd lost it.
For many, the Prime Minister's spirited defence of same sex marriage on Q&A was a watershed moment. Professor Kerryn Phelps hailed it as "an historical moment in Australian politics" and penned a 475 word article of thanks to the Prime Minister. For Professor Phelps and so many other LGBTIQ voters, this was the "sweetest victory of all".
And yet for so many Christians voters, this was the moment that the sheep's clothing came off the wolf's back.
At 7.30pm that night, in excess of 35,000 Christians gathered across 339 churches in every State and Territory to watch the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader address the Christian constituency. Not yet knowing what was to come, many of us sympathised with the Prime Minister's apparently genuine admission that:
many in the Christian churches may be disappointed with some of the decisions that I have taken as Prime Minister or as a person. I have also undertaken those decisions in good and prayerful conscience, even though people in equal prayerful conscience may disagree with some of those conclusions.
If the night had ended there, many of us would have been disappointed but at least sympathetic towards the Prime Minister's clumsy attempt to navigate through a complex moral minefield. What came next, no one could foresee.
Not more than three hours later, the Prime Minister publicly crucified a mainstream Christian pastor for questioning his backflip on marriage policy. Instead of the "gentle Kevin meek and mild" of 7.30pm, the Prime Minister not only failed to directly answer the question but he mercilessly lambasted the pastor whose personal views were irrelevant to his response.
According to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, "Kevin Rudd was profoundly wrong in his understanding of the Bible. He misquoted the Bible and attributed to the Bible something that Aristotle said (that slavery is a natural condition)." While the Prime Minister's gross distortion of Biblical truth was deeply concerning, it was his modus operandi and treatment of the Christian church that was offensive.
In retrospect, the Prime Minister's apparently gracious words of 7.30pm were akin to Judas' kiss before his 10.30pm betrayal. Voters can forgive a Prime Minister for changing his or her mind on even an important policy issue. On Monday night however, Kevin Rudd treated every Christian voter in Australia with absolute contempt.
Far from being some moment of great integrity and strong leadership, the Prime Minister's visceral attack on the Christian church was nothing more than cheap political opportunism. It was this Prime Minister's attempt at creating his own "misogyny speech", with the same confected moral outrage against a fictitious straw man. It was political desperation on steroids.
With the ALP heading for electoral wipe out on Saturday, the Prime Minister's attempt at leveraging the same sex marriage debate as a Hail Mary pass was always doomed to fail. It has irreparably damaged his once close relationship with the Christian constituency across Australia.
In fact, over the course of the election campaign, the Prime Minister has gradually severed ties with the people with whom he once identified so closely in 2009. According to former ALP Senator John Black, the Prime Minister has neglected the "young working-class families in the outer suburbs, many of whom go to church and believe in God…frankly, I haven't seen Kevin Rudd talking to those people a lot during the course of this campaign."
In June 2010, Kevin Rudd was torn down by his own party over his mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme and resource super profits tax. His gross lack of political judgment cost him the confidence of his Gang of Four and caucus. Unfortunately, that same lack of judgment appears to have motivated his neglect of vast swathes of the electorate who once supported Kevin07.
Joe de Bruyn, National Secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association cautioned that "Labor runs the risk that people who traditionally vote Labor will not vote Labor because they don't like the (same sex marriage) issue. …So Labor is actually running the risk, the more they prioritise this, people will vote against it."
On Monday, the Prime Minister ran that risk and crashed through. So this Saturday, he should crucify any expectation of political salvation.