Indian religion

Luxon must balance politics and religion

EDITORIAL: RNZ auditors Morning report heard an unusually tactless inquiry Wednesday morning when co-host Susie Ferguson asked new national leader Christopher Luxon about his faith.

Although more than a third of New Zealanders still call themselves Christians, the faith is now seen as a novelty political enough to warrant special treatment, especially if the politician is said to have come from the fringes that are variously described as Pentecostal, Evangelical or Fundamentalist, rather than the older traditional denominations, even lay New Zealanders are familiar.

National party leader Christopher Luxon during a visit to Tauranga.


National party leader Christopher Luxon during a visit to Tauranga.

“Do you believe in a literal translation of the Bible, miracles, and speaking in tongues,” Ferguson asked.

There is a lot to unbox out there, but the main thing seems to be the perspective of so-called “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins. It depends on the word “literal” and it really asks: how can an intelligent person believe this stuff? And do we really want such a deceived person to rule the country?

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Lack of tact is a kind way of putting it. As many have subsequently pointed out, a Jewish, Muslim or Hindu politician would likely not be questioned so boldly.

One of the reasons is that Christianity occupies a unique position in countries like New Zealand. On the one hand, it is only a minority voice among many others. On the other hand, it is our cultural heritage and it still informs many of our opinions and values. It’s the water we all swim in.

This means that even non-Christians feel entitled to question him. There is also a point of view, much too simplistic, which wraps Christianity in colonial baggage.

It’s a valuable discussion to have. But are all journalists equipped to have it?

Many churches are suspicious of the media, and for good reason. Bishop Brian Tamaki filled a void, asking for a level of attention out of all proportion to his true reach and influence. The resulting distortions and Tamaki’s role in disrupting social cohesion with anti-foreclosure protests only heighten secular suspicion of more reluctant church leaders and figures such as Luxon.

Luxon might have hoped to put the issue to bed in his first speech when he said his faith anchors him, gives him purpose and shapes his values. These are statements without controversy.

He sees “Jesus showing compassion, tolerance, and caring for others” rather than judging or discriminating, and views William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, and Kate Sheppard as examples of lifelong Christians. public.

The record also shows that Luxon supported Rainbow Communities while running Air NZ.

Luxon says his faith is personal, not a political agenda. But it is not always easy to separate the personal from the political. The issue of abortion is a good example.

Later that same day, in an interview with Newshub, Luxon has confirmed that he is pro-life. When asked if abortion amounted to murder, he replied, “That’s what a pro-life position is.”

It was not smart politics. Although Luxon has stressed that he will not try to make abortion illegal, thereby respecting personal and political separation, he has inadvertently named one in four New Zealand women as the killers. It won’t help National attract the centrist voters who liked the more liberal John Key.

Politics and religious belief can coexist successfully, as Jim Bolger, Bill English, Jim Anderton and many others have shown. There is also a way of expressing a pro-life position, as English did, without falling into Newshubtrap.

Luxon must hope that such questions were part of his knowledge and that his faith could become personal again after a series of bumpy introductions.