Dodson to the Senate (prelude)

Dodson to the Senate (prelude)

Dodson signing

Pat Dodson was nominated to fill a casual Senate vacancy by the WA Labor Party in 2016 after the resignation of Senator Joe Bullock.

This required ratification of a joint sitting of the WA Parliament for ratification.  The Hansard of that sitting can be read here , reading through this you can see that the speeches are very positive and acknowledge Dodson’s huge contribution to public life.  However, controversy emerges on page 4 when the the member for Southern River, Peter Abetz, launched into as speech about ‘traditional religious social values’ and a ‘traditional Aboriginal view of marriage’; I will not dwell on Abetz’s speech, as you can read it for yourself.

Nor will I comment on his suggestion that a traditional Aboriginal view of marriage is the same as an orthodox Christian view; although I understand from a study of historical anthropological sources in the South West of WA, that is far from clear. There is also great debate in Christian Churches, with leading conservative ethicists and theologians holding a very different perspective.

However, I would share some thoughts that were shared by ‘Erica Betts’ at a subsequent fundraiser for the ALP candidate for Southern River:

Peter is the preacher in our mob – I am the theologian of the family.  Preachers like Peter love their pet verses – Theologians look at what the whole of the biblical texts are saying – It is called systematic theology. I feel like I take the Bible more seriously – because, I’m looking at the forest and old Peter is just looking at six trees.

Tonight I want to share a few thoughts to counter Peters outburst – I promise I will not be as long as he was on that  day Senator Pat.

I am really fed up with the Australian Christian Lobby – they don’t represent me – and, anyone concerned with marriage equality should listen carefully as well

The concept of inclusion includes acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing individual differences. These differences can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, or even political beliefs. I even think the concept of tolerance is problematic. We need to aim higher – at understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within individuals. Honouring diversity reflects the multiple conflicts and commitments that emerge as people seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.

At its core, goodness and decency includes hospitality toward the vulnerable people in the community. Jesus made a point of showing welcome specifically toward those considered outside the circle of approved religiosity.  By definition, this hospitality is tested in relation to vulnerable people, the people who most need it, we could even say, the people that society has the most difficulty welcoming.

Jesus actually modelled welcome
Jesus consistently showed deep-seated and costly kindness and respect to particular men, women, and children.
Jesus cared for specific people. Jesus treated individuals with respect. He listened to others, was interested in them, shared food with them.
Jesus’ acceptance of particular people, however, most certainly had social consequences. He embraced particular people, in all their real-life social aspects, as a political strategy. We may call this strategy the  “politics of compassion.”

Politics of Compassion
Jesus and his followers stood in sharp contrast to the rigid social boundaries of their culture. They rejected boundaries between righteous and outcast. Jesus’ politics of compassion was founded on a deep understanding of mercy. God, as represented in Jesus’ teaching, does not discriminate but loves all people.
Jesus opened participation in this community to all who chose to be part of it, all they had to do was turn toward God and trust that God’s mercy is for them. This is Jesus’ fundamental message. Jesus healed outsiders, people considered unclean by the established religion. Jesus’ politics of compassion included all who responded just as they were.

The other thing I also want to say to old Brother Pete:
Your God is two white – pictures of Jesus with blonde hair and blues eyes
Your God is not Aryan, or Prussian or English – He is a Hebrew, he is Semitic – For goodness sake Jesus is a black man

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

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