There’s little debate over whether the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth actually existed around the commencement of the Common Era.
While most of the details about him come from the four gospels of the Bible, first-century historians Cornelius Tacitus and Flavius Josephus wrote about him.
Of course, the dispute is rather around whether he was a messiah: a spiritual saviour or liberator.
Followers of the world’s largest religion, Christianity, believe he was the Messiah. And while our nation is commonly known as a secular society – one which separates religion from the state – the number of adherents of the major faith in federal parliament is said to be increasing.
Indeed, our current prime minister is a Christian. In his 2008 maiden speech in parliament, Scott Morrison made a point of raising his faith, noting it is “personal” and not “political”. And he mentioned that Australia is “not a secular country” but a free one.
In quoting Jeremiah 9:24, Morrison indicated to the chamber that the values he derives from his faith are “loving kindness, justice and righteousness”.
However, these values that the PM holds dearly, along with others often associated with the figure of Jesus, aren’t usually the descriptors used when discussing certain policies that the Morrison government is in the habit of implementing and upholding.
So, Sydney Criminal Lawyers thought it opportune to take a look at what the historical figure of Jesus might have thought about the way in which the Pentecostal PM is running this country.
The politics of Jesus
By all accounts, Jesus of Nazareth was concerned about upholding the rights of the poor, the marginalised and the disadvantaged. He sought to relieve their suffering, and he advised others to take the same position.
While there is dispute amongst New Testament scholars as to whether Jesus was an ascetic, he certainly wasn’t concerned with accumulating wealth. The Bible has him suggesting in Matthew 19:21 that if a person wants to be “perfect” they should “sell their possessions and give to the poor”.
And Jesus was a social activist and an iconoclast. This was evidenced in the temple in Jerusalem, when he overthrew the tables of the money changers. And it was this rallying against the powers that be that eventually saw Jesus strung up and crucified.
So, it’s safe to say that the neoliberal agenda of the Morrison government, its championing of the corporate elite over the needs of the majority, as well as its utter contempt for the poor and downtrodden, wouldn’t have gone down too well with Jesus.
The policies of sinners
The Coalition’s practice of locking up refugees probably wouldn’t have received a tick of approval from Jesus either. As PM and as immigration minister, Morrison has overseen the utter degradation of powerless and vulnerable people – including children – to make a political statement.
And there was nothing messiah-like about home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s warning not to show asylum seekers any compassion, even when they begin taking their own lives.
On the plight of First Nations people, Morrison has done nothing to alleviate their position or to stop their persecution by our nation’s institutions. Rather, he’s fixated on upholding settler myths of terra nullius and Cook the discover, whilst overseeing the ongoing colonial landgrab on behalf of mining.
In speaking of the poor, the prime minister has insisted that unemployment benefits be kept at below poverty levels. Sure, he upped the payment for COVID-19 when a million more became unemployed, but he’s slowly dragging it back down so the jobless will go without once more.
Then there’s Morrison’s religious freedoms crusade, which involves the currently shelved Religious Discrimination Act. This piece of legislation contains laws that if enacted would allow people to discriminate against others if it’s part of the religious doctrine they adhere to.
Now, Jesus probably wouldn’t have been into this idea either, especially as those behind the campaign have often been prioritising a right to discriminate against LGBTIQ people.
Despite widespread assertions otherwise, it’s highly unlikely that a figure who espoused the values that Jesus is said to, would have promoted the persecution of people over their sexuality.
Some might say sacrilegious
Commentators have pointed to the form of Christianity that our prime minister follows as the reason why he can lord it over policies that are quite unchristian.
Morrison is a congregant of Sutherland’s Horizon Church, which is a Pentecostal institution that holds to the prosperity gospel.
Usually associated with evangelicals, prosperity theology is marked by a belief that those who worship Jesus will be rewarded with material wealth. So, the rich are moneyed because god smiles favourably upon them.
Funnily enough, these prosperity gospel adherents aren’t compelled to help the poor, like other Christians, because, according to this line of thought, it just encourages those without any money not to bother trying to improve their lot in life.
And perhaps to state the obvious, prosperity theology basically flies in the face of what Jesus is said to have stood for.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.