Parliament and Prayer

  (01 November 08)
  by Greg Spearritt

Cheryl Lawrie, writing in the Melbourne Age, defends the use of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each session of Parliament. She says:


“It's a dangerous prayer, not a respectable one. And, most importantly for this context, it offers a foundational ethic for the communities that pray it… [It is] a statement about what it is that we're on about as a country.”


Lawrie is partly right: the Lord’s Prayer ought to be a dangerous one.


But just as the churches have tamed, ignored and subverted the message of Jesus to serve their institutions (do you see the Sydney Anglican Diocese giving all its money to the poor?), so the Lord’s Prayer in the context of Parliament is about reassuring us that we still live in a civilised, ‘Christian’ country with conservative values.


And that’s the problem. The Lord’s Prayer is, unfortunately, “a statement about what it is that we're on about as a country”. But it's not an accurate statement. The actual content of the prayer is irrelevant.


It’s an icon. Like the Australian flag, it stands for a mythical glorious white Australia of the past. Our diggers in the World Wars did not fight for the flag – it wasn’t officially our flag, in fact, until 1954. But those who would fight tooth and nail to keep the current flag design would also be the most vocal in retaining the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament.


Lawrie is on firmer ground when she notes that


“We're also discarding a shared public ritual, and we have far too few of them in our community already.”


However, it’s time we came up with rituals that are far more inclusive and reflective of who we are in the twenty-first century.


I'm not so sure that the article was accurately reflected in this post [actually, it could be my bad writing - too much nuance?] - I think we would be in agreement if we talked about the issue. I appreciate your reflections, though.

Posted by Cheryl

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