Bill Shorten’s poorly aimed verbal sucker punch at Scott Morrison draws from the assumption that those who voted “yes” in the LNP’s gay marriage popularity survey are a bankable vote for Labor. This political maneuver was a bad call. It betrays a deep overconfidence in the Labor political machine and underestimates the intellectual capacity of the discerning public.
Shorten’s goal was clear. Capitalize on the fearmongering and misrepresentations, which he and Pro-SSM advocates were so keen to employ, instead of engaging in rational, respectful debate.
As a servant of that public, he seems to forget that Labor had originally refused to support the survey, and only backed it after being dragged to the table by discerning voters. His alternative was to arbitrarily make Same-sex marriage law, without Australian voters having any opportunity to debate it.
What Shorten thought would give him the presumed “moral high ground” has made him look petty and desperate. His spiteful attempt to score political points was, as Dennis Shanahan put it, part of a “co-ordinated response to exploit the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs; seeking to revive divisions of the same-sex marriage debate and bring “the millennials back to Labor.”1
Shorten’s “low blow” was a vicious attempt to push the Prime Minister down, in order for Bill Shorten to raise himself up. His not-so-subtle call to arms, in an attempt to stock the emotions of moderates who voted “yes”, fits the clinical description of agitprop (manipulative propaganda).
French philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul noted:
- Agitation propaganda unleashes an explosive movement it operates inside a crisis or actually provokes the crisis itself.
- it’s extremely easy to launch because it’s based on hatred of a particular enemy.
- Agitprop succeeds because it designates someone as the source of all misery.
- Any statement whatever, no matter how stupid, any “tall tale” will be believed once it enters into the passionate current of hatred.
- Agitprop uses keywords of magical import, which are believed without question.2
Ambushing Scott Morrison with a loaded question only serves to prove the point. It also shows that Shorten’s verbal sucker punch was motivated by a malicious political attempt to launch a movement of hatred against the Prime Minister in the last week of an election, that Labor are confident they cannot lose.
Shorten’s unfair, on the spot demand that Scott Morrison answer whether he “believes that homosexuals go to hell or not” lead to Morrison’s “declaration” that, “no, he doesn’t believe that homosexuals go to hell”.
Rather than the Prime Minister’s response showing a compromise of his Christian faith, his response proved his strength as a leader. Morrison identified and neutralized a manipulative attempt to undermine the Australian people, and he refused to play political games by pitting the majority Christian community against the minority LGBT community. This was a hard call, but it was the right move.
In refusing to be baited by Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison didn’t dismiss Biblical Christianity, he dismissed Shorten’s slippery attempt to provoke division and hatred within the community through ignorance of Christian theology. In doing so, Morrison showed his political prowess and eligibility to continue to serve as Prime Minister.
Labor’s agitprop aside, theologically speaking there’s also a nuance in Morrison’s response.
Technically, Morrison is right to reject the oversimplistic notion that the sinners are indiscriminately thrown into hell by a tyrannical God. This is the myth Peter FitzSimons may believe, but it’s not the God testified to in the Bible, who actively and decisively, speaks, and makes Himself known to humanity through His Covenant with Israel and Jesus Christ. Morrison is right to reject the illiterate assumption that people are recklessly and arbitrarily thrown into eternal separation from God. The unrepentant sinner goes there willingly.
There is a distinction between sinner and sin; the person and the action. To be transformed into the image of sin is to willingly engage in a rejection of the image of God. Though sin is a pervasive reality, sin does not define us unless it becomes something we take pride in or refuse to turn away from. The consequence is that we are conformed to its dark and corrupt image, rather than God’s, who is the source and fullness of life.
C.S. Lewis stated two things that illuminate this nuance. First, hell is the outer darkness,3 chosen self-annihilation. Secondly, hell is judgment: “To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being on earth; to enter Hell is to be banished from humanity.”4
Lewis also pointed out that: “there are two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God, in the end, says, ‘thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell choose it5…he has his wish – to live wholly for the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell.”6
As a side note, when comparing Israel Folau with Scott Morrison, it’s also important to recognize, that there’s a difference in their platforms.
One was an athlete posting on his personal social media account, the other is a sitting Prime Minister, who was ambushed by the media and the Labor opposition leader with a loaded question (logical fallacy).
I think far more than this event shining a light on Morrison (and on a level of consistency, it doesn’t look great), the event reveals a whole lot more about the hostility and preconceived bias, theological illiteracy and prejudice against Christians in the public arena from Labor, and parts of Australia’s MSM. That is what we should be focusing on, not the lack of theological depth in the Prime Minister’s quick reply.
As Shannahan said, ‘it was the only response available’ (The Australian, May 15th).
Hypocritically, Bill Shorten isolated a large section of the Australian Community, all while declaring that Australia “needed a Prime Minister for all people.”
Shorten’s dull and contemptible perception of the Australian public, and the discerning voter, is no match for the much sharper, and more relatable, Scott Morrison. Australian Labor’s coordinated attempt at agitprop, along with the division and hatred they tried to incite, not only alienates the 4.87 million (38.4%) who ticked “no” in the Same-Sex marriage popularity survey, it revealed that the opposition leader is willing to divide Australians for personal gain.
Shorten’s theologically illiterate polemic and his deliberate exploitation of Scott Morrison’s Christian faith proves that Shorten is unfit to serve as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia. To the discerning voter, Christian or otherwise, this is another reason, in a list of reasons to think hard before voting Labor/Green in the upcoming election on Saturday.
As C.S. Lewis put it: “In all discussions of Hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends, but of ourselves.”7
- Shanahan, D. Shorten stoops to new low on leader’s beliefs, The Australian, 15th May 2019
- Ellul, J. 1965. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes Vintage Books Ed. (pp.72-74)
- Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain (p.130)
- Lewis, C.S. The Great Divorce, (p.75)
- Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain, (p.126)
- Ibid, (p.132)