Wellington Christian businessman, Mr Tim Lough, argued in his published feature article “Still a Christian state” (Dominion Post 30/11/04, B5), that the parliamentary prayer should remain unchanged. He was responding to a viewpoint expressed by Stephen Levine, Political science professor at Victoria University (DP, 12/11/04), that the prayer should be scrapped. More recently there have been calls for the Speaker of the House to of Representatives, the Hon. David Carter, to seek the opinion of all MPs on a newly proposed prayer, and to issue a ruling.
The existing prayer is:
Humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tim Lough wrote:
POLITICAL science professor Stephen Levine argued plausibly but unconvincingly (Nov 12) against the parliamentary prayer. The issue at stake is not the separation of church and state, but whether New Zealand is a Christian country or not.
No denomination of Christendom is given any ascendancy by the wording of the prayer, but it is, without doubt, a Christian prayer, and this is what appears to upset some. Any civilised society must have a set of moral imperatives, a transcendent law, which regulates that society by addressing the consciences of its members and moulding the statutes that govern it.
New Zealand has been endowed with a Christian heritage that can be traced back to the earliest days of European settlement. We know that on Christmas Day 1819, Samuel Marsden read the Holy Scriptures for probably the first time publicly in this country and gave a sermon from Luke 2 v 10.
It would be of interest to many that the generous terms the Maori people gained in the Treaty of Waitangi have been attributed to the revival of evangelical Christianity in England in the first half of the 19th century.
From those early days till now, it cannot be denied that Christianity, including the principles of the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, has had a profound effect of New Zealand society.
The preciousness of life; the value of the family unit; the sanctity of marriage; the care expended on the sick, the aged and the weak; and the trust that allows us to extend credit and do business the way we do are all values derived from the Judaeo-Christian ethic New Zealand has been endowed with.
The liberal would dispute this, and it must grate on such to hear a daily plea for God’s help on behalf of our legislators concluded with the words “through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen”. But this prayer should remain, for it is a daily reminder of the influence of Christianity that has helped form this nation and is currently under attack.
This positive force for good has provided the strength in the moral fabric of the society we live in, but which is being stretched to breaking point by a combination of a growing permissiveness in society at large and legislation that is at odds with Christian principles. Liberalism, which is competing for the place of the dominant school of thought (and is subscribed to by many in leadership roles) in this country, is virtually a religion in itself.
The liberal believes that God changes according to how he wishes to perceive Him, if he wishes to perceive Him at all. So liberals say we should have a modern prayer in our legislature devised along liberal lines. But it would be a prayer to a god that the agnostic is not sure about, the atheist doesn’t believe in, and the Christian knows is not his God at all. Rather it would be the invention of the politically correct to try to express our multi-culturalism with a pseudo-religion of their own devising.
SOME may say that is harsh, but if our members of Parliament are not taking a Christian prayer seriously when they have been brought up in (and are seeking to legislate for) a country with a rich Christian heritage, how can they be expected to take seriously (let alone agree on in the first place) an artificial conglomeration of different religious liturgies put together for the purpose of attempting to express our cosmopolitan make-up.
If I go to Saudi Arabia, I accept I am in a Muslim country; if I go to Israel, I accept that Judaism is the religion that represents that country’s ethos, though no doubt both countries have minorities of different persuasions. Likewise, New Zealand is a nation that is regarded as Christian, and it would be expected that, like the legislatures of Britain, Australia and the United States, a Christian prayer would be a fitting way to initiate the daily parliamentary programme.
At a time when Australia and the US have elected leaders who are guided by Christian principles, why is New Zealand moving in the opposite direction?
The fact that some feel moved to mock US President George W Bush’s public confession of Christianity says more about the mockers than about the president. Surely it is a comforting thing that the world’s most powerful man submits to a higher authority, which so governs his conscience that he is moved to use the power that has been given to him for good and that in humility he supplicates God for the wisdom needed to fulfil his responsibilities.
Many New Zealanders, myself included, sincerely believe the fundamental truths of Christianity embraced by Mr Bush. Such have found forgiveness through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, and have experienced the power it provides to change their lives for the better.
But, it is argued, many don’t subscribe to this belief system, including a number of our parliamentarians.
This is true, but these people are beneficiaries of the positive effect that Christianity has had on this country, and you could never devise a prayer that was equally acceptable to the Christian, Muslim, agnostic and atheist.
So, the reply might be, we are better without the prayer.
No, because in removing it, you would remove a daily reminder to our legislators that there is an authority above them, and, even for the non-religious, you would remove a regular reminder to consider the “maintenance of justice”, “the public welfare”, and the “peace and tranquillity of New Zealand”.
The parliamentary prayer is a good prayer. It is a daily recognition of God in the House; it reinforces our Christian heritage; it is taken seriously by many and is available to be taken seriously by all. It should remain unchanged. *
*Tim* *Lough* is a Wellington businessman