Saturday, August 29, 2015
Religious conservativism, fundamentalism and the punitive authoritarian tendencies of the Abbott Government
Tony Abbott before reading during a liturgy at St Charbel’s Maronite church.
AAP image courtesy of the Saturday Paper
'If the government seems to be out of step with social expectations it is because Abbott is governing for the far-right numbers that installed him as party leader.'
The Abbott Government Cabinet and backbench are unquestionably the most extreme right-wing Christian conservative government in living memory, and as such are totally unrepresentative of the beliefs and values of the wider society.
The intense religious conservatism of the Abbott Government partly explains its increasingly authoritarian tendencies, its unpopularity and policy paralysis.
At the heart of the Abbott Government is the confluence of four (4) forms of fundamentalist thought, including religious fundamentalism, market fundamentalism, nationalistic and military fundamentalism (including an obsession with anti-terror, border protection and citizenship) and education and cultural fundamentalism (as evidenced by its stance on disparate issues such as its assault on the ABC, the attacks on environmentalists and civil society activists, the denial of climate change and attacks of climate change scientists and advocates, the School Chaplaincy Program, generous funding of faith based private schools and opposition to gay marriage).
As a result there is growing acknowledgement of, and concern about the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Abbott Government (see articles here, here, here, here, here and here)
In the Saturday Paper, Mike Seccombe reminds us of the influence of religious conservatism and the Christian right wing on the Abbott Government.
"Paradoxically, even as modern Australia continues to become less religious and particularly less Christian, we are governed by probably the most obviously religious government the country has had.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s devout Catholicism and his background as a trainee priest are well known. But it’s not just him. Almost half his frontbench are practising Catholics, a statistic that would no doubt astound the party’s founder, Robert Menzies. Among the rest are several who adhere to Protestant sects that Menzies would have considered decidedly non-mainstream."
Marion Maddox has written about the insidious rise and influence of the religious right under John Howard in her book God Under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australia.
Maddox argued that John Howard harnessed the conservative social agenda and market-based ideology of religious fundamentalists to stay in power. Maddox argued that the Christian right gained influence at the heart of the Howard Government and posed an unprecedented threat to Australia's democratic culture.
Maddox has also written of the rise and influence of 'prosperity gospel' on conservative politics and conservative politicians. This is a form of religious (and political conservatism) that worships financial acquisition and guilt free-even obligatory- consumption with the claim that financial and material success is a reflection of the will of god.