When Dominic Perrottet was appointed as Premier of NSW, it wasn’t just an RIP moment to Gladys, it also brought to the forefront once more the severe discomfort some people feel when Australian political leaders have an obvious religious faith.
There were articles that referenced his Catholicism as fundamentalist and “divisive”, with views that “cannot be challenged by logic, evidence or appeals to reason”, and another that defended it saying Catholicism “is not some fringe religion” and that it was “assumptive” to think it would affect his consideration of the views of others without his same beliefs.
Greg Sheridan AO is an Australian journalist who has been immersed in the world of power, politics and faith for over 40 years.
For the last three decades he’s been the foreign editor for The Australian newspaper and written a number of books on politics, religion and international affairs including 2018’s God is Good for You, and this year, Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in our World.
On the latest episode of the UNDISTRACTED podcast, Greg spoke with Laura Bennett about the challenges of revealing your faith in the political sphere, and the impact of faith beliefs on political leadership.
“Australian politians are very modest about their Christianity,” Greg said.
“Some Christians don’t agree with me on this, but I don’t think Christianity adjudicates between centre-left and centre-right policies.
“Some Christians don’t agree with me on this, but I don’t think Christianity adjudicates between centre-left and centre-right policies,” – Australian journalist Greg Sheridan
“There are some things where Christian principles are absolutely clear, and you cannot adopt these policies and be a Christian: you can’t be a racist and a Christian, you can’t be a Nazi or a Communist and a Christian, you can’t have an ideology of hatred and be a Christian.
“But for most people in the centre-left and the centre-right, Christianity doesn’t tell you how you should manage fiscal policy or whether you should deregulate the labour market…
“Really, good conscientious Christians can completely disagree on maters of policy,” he said.
On Dominic Perrottet, Greg said, “I don’t know whether he’s going to be a good Premier or not – the cases of Dominic Perrottet and Scott Morrison are very interesting.
“Scott Morrison is unfamiliar to people because they’re unaccustomed to having a Pentecostal be a Prime Minister – I think he’s the first Pentecostal to lead a mainstream OECD nation.
“Dominic Perrottet is unusual to people because they’re unaccustomed to having, what you might call, a fairly old-style conservative Catholic as a political leader.
“But in both cases, I think, the attacks are utterly ridiculous.”
On the issue of voluntary assisted dying for instance, “Dominic Perrottet will vote against it”, Greg said, “but his position as premier and as leader of the Liberal party is that he will have a conscience vote”.
“There’s not one speck of coercion or improper influence [even though] Dominic’s own profound belief is that you shouldn’t kill people, even if they’re old and frail, even if they want to die,” Greg said.
In his latest books, he not only takes a look at the intellectual validity of Christianity, but also applies a journalistic lens to the text, and urges readers to see the importance of Christian ideologies in forming a healthy society.
“If you don’t believe in God, if you don’t believe in Christianity, there is no ultimate right or wrong,” Greg said.
“If your vision is to kill 600 people, well your vision is just as good as my vision if there’s no God to adjudicate it.
“Why am I outraged at someone else’s vision of morality if there’s nothing other than his prejudices and my prejudices – and they’re only mediated by power?”
Another challenge in modern culture Greg sees is the espousal of Christian values – kindness, fidelity in marriage, service to others – without connection to the underlying belief system that orients them and gives them meaning.
“There’s a sort of existential panic behind atheistic liberalism,” Greg said.
“Because life itself has no meaning if you take away God – it’s just a question of keeping yourself entertained until you die.
“Life itself has no meaning if you take away God – it’s just a question of keeping yourself entertained until you die,” – Australian journalist Greg Sheridan
“You then try to infuse meaning into every passing obsession that you have.
“[Our allegiance to them] becomes very ritualistic and performative, and you have to actively assert whatever the latest current fashionable dogma is – or you are seen as an enemy of progress and enlightenment.
“The sad thing for modern liberalism cut off from Christianity is it tries to invest transcendent value in its current little temporary political judgments.” Greg said
“And, these judgments change, so this sense of transcendent investment is constantly changing – which itself is a problem.”
Greg’s book Christians: The Urgent Case for Jesus in our World is out now. Listen to Greg’s full UNDISTRACTED interview in the player above.