Virtue: goodness, righteousness, integrity, honesty, morality, uprightness. Its antonym is “wickedness”.
As Prime Minister Turnbull and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and their party faithful rejoiced over the redefining of marriage what happened to the virtue of truth. The rhetoric of commitment to freedom of speech and religion by Mr Turnbull and those who ran the “Yes” campaign was lost in unamended legislation that disenfranchised potentially a third of Australian voters and probably more. No wonder former Prime Minister John Howard believed such legislation needed to be put in place before any plebiscite took place. Did he understand how rhetoric masks the absence of virtue? Did he understand the words of Jesus Christ who said “Entrust yourself to no man, for the heart of man is desperately wicked”? Understanding the corruption of the human heart and its propensity for sin it should be no surprise to learn that virtue always struggles to survive without careful checks and balances. Am I right to wonder about integrity?
Hidden in the elation of the days of redefinition, the newly elected Deputy Prime Minister announced the end of his coalition to his wife of many years while just days earlier proudly declaring the wonder of a national coalition that you can depend upon with almost Arnold Schwarzenegger bravado, “Where back!”. Would I be a little cynical to ask the question as to why the moment for such an announcement was made after the by-election and amidst the noise of redefining celebrations? Could being compromised silence clarity when it comes to definition? Would it be inappropriate to suggest that one’s private life can offer perspective and expectation in the area of public performance? Am I right to wonder about morality?
Of course, lurking in the background of all these things is the likes of a Sam Dastyari. Should I be concerned that an elected representative to our Parliament sought to avoid being heard speaking with a person of Chinese background by an Australian security agency? Should I be concerned when such behaviour is not disavowed? Am I right to wonder about uprightness?
And reporting on all this is the media. Would it be wrong of me to think ill of the media when it attacks others on issues of abuse while its senior executives bring no correction to the Don Burkes of its industry? Should I be surprised by so much violence and sexual brokenness when programming entertains us with it? Am I wrong to think that hypocrisy reigns from the seat of the host when the likes of a Carl Stefanovic is allowed to ridicule a Cory Bernardi for entertainment?
And responding to all this is the Bishop of a church caught up in a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that has looked into schools, scouting, children’s homes, sporting groups and more. Am I wrong to be concerned about the loss of virtue everywhere?
Four words have dominated our national headlines in 2017: royal commissions, equality, citizenship. Even when all are sorted out by investigation, vote and legislation the real issue for our nation remains unaddressed – VIRTUE. But you can’t legislate for virtue. So thank God for Christmas.
Christmas may be the best time to readjust your set, rethink your vote, and repent of your sins. Sin condemns us all equally but the birth of Jesus Christ was to introduce God’s offer of forgiveness equally to all. The birth of Jesus Christ, with its star and angels, human interest and so much promise left no doubt as to his citizenship – one not of this world but a citizenship of heaven. And it is no surprise some sought to kill Him when they realised His birth assured a heavenly royal commission into individual abuse.
It is why Christmas can be such a joyful season as the birth of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and confirms one’s citizenship in heaven, overcoming the judgements of God’s royal commission into you and me, issuing in virtue not its antonym.
Bishop Rick Lewers