A STRANGE thing happened at the last Federal election. Labor politicians demanded to know whether or not the PM believed gays would go to hell.
Israel Folau, a deeply religious and outspoken footballer, had posted on Instagram that homosexuals (among others) would go to hell unless they repented. Labor wanted to know if our deeply religious Prime Minister agreed.
But Labor did not go far enough. It is all very well for the political class to establish that gays are safe from eternal damnation, but what about the rest of us? We, too, need our political leaders to provide assurances about the afterlife.
That Prime Minister Scott Morrison was forced to clarify that he does not think homosexuals would end up in hell must have come as a relief to millions of Australians who believe Canberra has the power to control not only the climate, but eternal life.
There is no need to worry about missing out on heaven if you are homosexual because politicians on both sides of the House agreed at the last election, you are heaven-bound, and so that settles it.
No need for Saint Peter to stand at the Pearly Gates checking the Book of Life for your name – just mention that Sco-Mo and Bill Shorten agreed you’re okay, and you’ll be waved straight into Paradise.
But while gays are resting easy, secure in the knowledge that they are going up rather than going down, the rest of us are trapped in a kind of political purgatory.
Consider how Israel Folau must now be feeling.
If those running for Pope, er, Prime Minister, have decreed that gays do not go to hell, what of people like Folau, who disagree with homosexuality? Surely they are now in danger of hell themselves? Or do they just lose multi-million-dollar contracts in this life? It would be helpful if Labor, or even the Australian Rugby Union, could provide some theological advice here.
The then Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek insisted that the question of whether or not gays would go to hell was really a question of whether or not politicians supported “equality”.
But this only served to add to the confusion surrounding Labor policy on eternal damnation. Did the Deputy Leader mean that Labor supported equality of opportunity or equality of outcome?
Would a Labor Government encourage a merit-based entry system or were they advocating quotas for heaven, to ensure that Paradise is representative of the general population?
Senior Labor frontbencher, now Deputy Leader, Richard Marles hinted at more detail when he told Sky News that: “This is a question about whether public figures … go out there and make the point that a group of law-abiding Australians are going to go to hell.”
Keen political observers noted that, according to the senior Labor MP, it seemed law-abiding Australians would not suffer the flames of eternal torment. But others argued more policy work was needed.
If “law-abiding citizens” were not destined for hell, what of law-breaking citizens? Suddenly mums and dads who had received traffic infringements were desperate to know whether or not, under a Labor Government, their political betters would believe them headed for hell.
MPs were asked to clarify whether exceeding the speed limit would cost you just a few points in this life, or all of your points in the next. And if, Canberra-forbid, it was the latter, was there a suspension period that could be served before being reinstated to the Good Place?
For less well-behaving Australians, Mr Marles musings on who would and would not go to hell raised serious questions that have still not been answered.
If one breaks the law, but serves time in the Australian prison system, does that punishment cancel out any eternal consequence? Surely it would be unfair to be punished twice for the same crime. Could Labor give assurances this will not be the case?
Mr Marles Sky interview hinted there might be another get-out-of-jail-free card that, should Labor ever ascend on high, we can play in the afterlife. He was adamant that gays would not go to hell because they were law-abiding “Australians”.
It is a relief to know that Australian citizenship is recognized in heaven and that an Australian passport gets you more than just free entry into New Zealand.
But what of other nationals? Do non-Australian passport holders automatically qualify for celestial citizenship? Would Labor support a turn-back policy for those who jump the queue and try to enter heaven without the appropriate visa?
Whilst Mr Marles would not be drawn on such questions, he said that the Prime Minister’s views were “out of kilter” with most Australians. This raised the awful prospect that Labor might push for a plebiscite to decide, by popular vote, who was and who was not fit for heaven.
Better that our politicians remain focused on this life and leave the next one to be debated by theologians.