Puzzling out what the PM means by love, judgment and prayer

By SweeAnn Koh

What did Prime Minister Scott Morrison mean when he declared in front of 30,000 people at the recent Hillsong annual conference that Australia “needs more love and less judgment and more prayer”?

On face value, it’s difficult to disagree with him, but what kind of love is he referring to? Love for whom? How deep and how wide? And is it just for Australians?

Does that love extend to asylum seekers and refugees who have been trapped on Nauru and Manus for six years without trial?

Scripture repeatedly teaches love for the other.

The Hebrew prophets often wrote of caring for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the immigrant.

Leviticus 19:34 commands: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

And Jesus echoed these texts, citing hospitality towards the stranger as a definitive mark of his followers (Matthew 25:35).

How we treat immigrants (asylum seekers and refugees) is how we treat God. John is clear: “For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20b)

Does the PM’s love extend beyond Australia’s borders?

Tim Costello, former World Vision Australia CEO, feels the government has “lost sight of our nation’s role as a global neighbour and treated our aid program like an ATM”.  

Since 2013, the Coalition has slashed foreign aid. At the moment it is just 0.21 per cent of gross national income. The United Nations target is 0.7 per cent.

I certainly agree with the PM that we all should be less judgmental, but this is the same man who in 2016 opposed same-gender marriage and later refused to vote in accordance with the popular will after the resounding “yes” vote in the postal survey?

Does Mr Morrison understand that many in the LGBTQI community are judged and demonised regularly?

When he asked for more prayer I was a bit sceptical because Hillsong’s understanding of prayer is probably different from mine.

I certainly don’t subscribe to the prosperity gospel, which seems to believe that prayer operates God’s big vending machine. If I ask, press the button and put in the money (offering) then God will bless me with earthly riches.

All Christians read the same Bible and follow the same brown-skinned Jewish rabbi in Jesus, and yet we seem to worship different gods or different visions of God.

So, the call to more love, less judgment and more prayer is good but may not be as easy as it appears.

My prayer for Australia might look something like this:

Dear Church in Australia,

Stop gathering around the name of Jesus

while ignoring the ways of Jesus, the way of love.

Remember the poor and homeless.

Welcome the strangers and those different from us.

Stand up for the asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Manus. 

If you have benefitted from the recent government tax cuts

don’t forget those who are struggling on the Newstart Allowance.

Care for God’s creation and demand real action from our government.

In the name of the brown-skinned Jewish rabbi Jesus

Who called us even to love our enemies.

Amen.

Rev SweeAnn Koh is Intercultural Community Development Advocate, equipping Leadership for Mission

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