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14: Our first live episode on election 2019, the ‘Christian vote’ and West Wing idealism

EPISODE: 14

Our first live episode

election 2019, the ‘Christian vote’, and West Wing idealism

with Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit

Live and in person, it’s ‘With All Due Respect!’ At least, it was last night when Megan and Michael recorded their first live episode at the invitation of PEACEtalks, an initiative of Paddington Anglican Church in Sydney.

And… how handy that the federal election was called for the day of our live podcast, all about … the election!

For arguments sake: where we take a debate, cut out the party politics and try to talk it out

Megan kicked off with a quote from Franklin D Roosevelt’s inaugural address as President of the United States after his first election win in 1933:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Last year, Michael wrote an opinion piece for Eternity asking: What are we worrying about? In it, he writes:

“What we need is to become a non-anxious presence in our chronically anxious world. Christians of all people have reason to be non-anxious. We believe that God is sovereign, the mighty Rock who is a stronghold against every threat. We believe we have even our sins dealt with, so that we need not worry about them any more. We have the resources in our faith to be an island of peace in a world that seems to be constantly in turmoil.”

The two quotes set the scene for Megan and Michael’s discussion of our current political landscape. So, should we be afraid of fear in politics and is it a valid tactic?

The pair offer examples of fear-driven politics, including Donald Trump in the United States, and more recently the actions of Senator Fraser Anning in Australia in the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings which tried to instill fear of Islam (by the way, confirming Megan’s statistics: Muslims make up 2.6% – 604,200 people – of Australia’s population, according to the 2016 census).

Megan and Michael chat about the role of emotion more generally in politics including anger, pointing to political actions like the climate change protests by school students. “One of our deep fears is being powerless and not heard,” says Michael.

Moving beyond ourselves

Michael and Megan move on to talking about how to reach “across the aisle” and “speaking the language of the person you may be opposed to”, which they feel is sadly lacking in today’s political discourse.

They talk about what they believe the role of Christians should be in this political climate, especially going into this election. “Of all people,” says Megan, “Christians shouldn’t be using [fear] …”

And yet the pair can point to many occasions where fear is driving Christians and their political engagement, particularly when it comes to religious freedom.

Michael says he believes it’s getting harder to be a Christian, but Megan says she just doesn’t feel that in her personal experience and argues that it’s the same people advocating for religious freedom who didn’t want to give freedom to other people on issues like same-sex marriage.

Also mentioned in this segment:

  • Michael was on ABC’s The Drum this week and Megan mentions that what he said about the Get Up! attack ad (around 53:00) by conservative group Advance Australia was relevant to their discussion on tribalism and looking at ‘issues’ rather than ‘parties’ or ‘groups’.
  • Australian Conservatives QLD Senate candidate Lyle Shelton’s campaign launch video for the 2019 election.
  • Freedom for Faith, an organisation advocating for religious freedom

Further reading on these issues:

The secret life of us: in which we try to figure out what makes the other one tick

Megan and Michael talk about the issues that move them and impact their vote, based on author Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations survey.

Megan scored high on care, equality, and autonomy; low on equity, authority, loyalty and purity.

Michael scored high on care, authority and purity; low on equity, loyalty low on autonomy.

(Pssst… their viewpoints on authority in particular cause some friction)

With their moral foundations scores as the foundation, the pair discuss what experiences have impacted their voting and what they believe to be the role of government and politicians.

Mentioned in this segment:

Discomfort zone: ever thought someone might think differently if they went outside their comfort zone? This is where we make the other do just that.

Michael asked Megan to read a piece he wrote in 2015 for The Guardian titled, We shouldn’t trust orators, visionaries and dreamers to lead us which he wrote about Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister. Michael says he wanted Megan to read this article to draw out the differences in their perspectives on the role of politicians. Megan calls herself an idealist. Michael says he is much more pragmatic and believes the job of casting a vision for a nation is a dangerous thing to give to politicians because it can produce nationalism.

You can help Eternity share seriously good news by donating today at eternitynews.com.au/donateMegan, though, says it’s dangerous not to expect our politicians to dream. She references another article in The Guardian in defense of idealism, that suggests that a failure of our leaders to project a clear vision leaves space for those with dangerous and ‘perverse’ dreams … like Donald Trump.

The pair debate whether it’s possible to enact necessary change without big political dreams.

Then, Megan asked Michael to watch three West Wing episodes, the popular television show created by Aaron Sorkin:

Michael says while he did enjoy West Wing, he still thinks House of Cards and Yes, Minister “speak more truly”. The duo discuss the show’s idealism and sentiment and what it means for our politics and election processes today.

Also mentioned in this segment:

Marg and Dave: Reviews from two people obsessed by stories. But not always the same ones

At Megan’s suggestion, the pair watch Death of Stalin, is a 2017 political satire black comedy film, which Megan describes as an “effective movie against idealism” But what does it say about power and the humanisation of evil?

WHAT IS WITH ALL DUE RESPECT?

Less aggro, more conversation.

Is it even possible to have a deep discussion without it descending into chaos? Michael Jensen and Megan Powell du Toit think yes, and want to show the rest of us how to do it.

There’s plenty of things they disagree on: free will, feminism, where you should send your kids to school and what type of church you should go to. But there are also plenty of other things that they have in common. They want to talk about all these things with conviction. But they also want the conversation to be constructive. Tune in to find out if that’s possible.

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