There’s an interesting exploration of the links between the ALP and Christian churches in the Sydney Morning Herald today by Marion Maddox, author of the book God Under Howard. “Once upon a time,” she writes, “Labor shared something else with evangelicals and Pentecostals: passion. If the party of true believers wants their votes, it’s time to recover some.”

There are more explicit links that could be drawn. Much of the driving force behind the British trade unionist movement and UK Labour came out of self-help organisations that had their origins in the Methodist church, a church that rebelled against the Established Church of England. And as Maddox reminds us: “Evangelicals spearheaded the antislavery movement, campaigned for prison reform, fought for women’s suffrage.”

“Labor should concentrate on ‘family’ issues where it can find common ground [with Christians] while staying true to itself. It could talk about parents needing time with their children (not yet more job insecurity and productivity pressure). It could remember paid maternity leave (plenty of evangelical mothers work, too).”

Maddox also has a nice take on those amorphous “values voters,” and how they might manifest themselves in Australia. She talks about “atheist parents who send their children to church schools and agnostic voters who support contracting out welfare to the Salvation Army, Anglicare or Mission Australia” who “don’t go to church, but… want ‘values.’ And they want to be reassured their leaders have some.”

“Being visibly aligned with an identifiable ‘values’ constituency helps show the rest of the population you stand for something,” Maddox concludes. Could be handy for a Mr Flip-Flop.

Peter Fray

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