Yesterday, within the venerable halls of the NSW Parliament, One Nation’s Mark Latham gave his maiden speech as a NSW Member of Parliament.
"No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilisation: I am a Christian."
Stirring and war like words from a man who has positioned himself as a political bulwark in defence of Christian Australia. A relatively new movement prospering on the belief, and propagating the notion, that Christianity is under attack in Australia.
At the extreme militant wing of this movement sits the murderous Christchurch terrorist (whose name I choose not to glorify). Within his “manifesto” and written upon his weapons were innumerable references to historical Christian Crusades and the cause for which he killed, the defence of European Christendom.
Indeed even his public defender, the intolerable Fraser Anning chose to conclude his thinly veiled defence of the attacks with a bible quote. A politician whose very infamy was first raised as he called for a “return to a European Christian immigration system” from the floor of the Australian Senate.
What do these men have in common? Amazingly, these most fervent defenders of Christian Australia do not appear to actually be practising Christians.
Latham has labelled himself a “humanist” or an “agnostic” in interviews. The Christchurch Terrorist was not known to attend any Church and never actually called himself a Christian in his rambling diatribes. Fraser Anning claims to be a nominal Catholic but is not believed to actually attend any Church - indeed the Catholic Church within Australia was quick to unequivocally and repeatedly condemn Anning, and his values.
The association these men have made with the Christian faith is one of sheer convenience. For within the legitimacy of religion heralds a veneer from which they can claim moral protection for their unassociated prejudices.
By proclaiming the external threat upon “Christian Australia” they are afforded a level of immunity from condemnation that would not be available if they were to express the uncensored reality of their message, the threat upon “White Australia”.
The sanctity offered by “religious freedom” proves irresistible to anyone looking to provide sanctuary to their prejudices, a utility seemingly less frequently relied upon by those harbouring sincere religious conviction.
It is striking and noteworthy that whilst the so-called defenders of Christian Australia warn of Islamic invasions, the most vocal activists in supports of the predominantly Muslim refugees are quite often the Catholic and Anglican Church.
Whilst Christian institutions are by no means absolved from allegations of propagating prejudice within our society (we shall leave the topic of homophobia for another day), it appears on the surface at least, that its association with White Nationalism is entirely involuntary.
There is a natural hesitancy within our society to attack any belief that is cloaked in religious justification. It is a stance that has hamstrung any progressive reaction to otherwise intolerable values within extremist Islamic doctrines. It is perhaps the recognition of this inability of the ‘left of politics’ to effectively criticise religious dogma that instilled within the far-right the idea to secrete the politics of white nationalism within revisionist Christian history.
Christianity is, in some ways, under attack in Australia. Not by invasion, but by broad social change. Census data shows an exponentially growing demographic of un-religious citizens, whilst the number of Australians who claim to regularly attend Church has fallen to 15% of the population.
Yet this decline has not been accompanied by any degradation in so called “Western Values”. The rule of law has only strengthened in recent years, our democracy has survived an atheist unmarried women at its helm, and the inclusion of the LGBT community into the institution of marriage has not caused any of the apocalyptical social collapses that were warned against. Western civilisation may share a common history with Christianity however it has long proved itself capable of thriving without its preeminence.
The fact is, men like Latham, Anning, and the Christchurch Terrorist don’t fear the indefatigable rise of secularism when they decry the threat to Christianity, secularism is never the target of their attacks. They fear the erosion of the white nation state, they fear the Muslim minority.
Making up 2% of the population, this fellow monotheistic religion, this brethren of the Abrahamic faiths is sold to us as a greater existential threat than the over 30% of Australians that profess no religion at all? The numbers don’t add up.
There is no obvious solution to this charade, I certainly don’t expect the white nationalist to surrender the implied legitimacy of their modern day crusade. But we on the left, and even the centre-right, must loosen our self imposed reluctance to critically examine any beliefs championed under the banner of religion. Any religion.
For only once White Nationalism loses its religious immunity will we as a society truly be able to mitigate its threat.