The first issue discussed was asylum seekers. I was disappointed by the unthinkingly complacent view taken by Archbishop Jensen. This could have come from a liberal:
One of the great things about Australia is our welcome and the welcome we give to people from all religions, all places in the world and we have become a little bit visceral in regard to the Muslim people coming here. I think we need to back off a bit, welcome them, make them feel at home and you will find they will take their part as all the rest of us who have arrived here take our part too. On Sunday I was with a Vietnamese who’d arrived here in a boat. He is now he's a pastor in a church, he's got a Vietnamese church, the Vietnamese community have brought us wonderful things. I said to him "What have you brought us, mate?" He said, "Good food." So I reckon welcome people, don't judge them.
There are three key errors here. First, Jensen is feeding the liberal belief in negative rather than positive values. That's not a wise move for a churchman. A liberal morality is built negatively around non-interference; you're supposed to be tolerant of difference, supportive of diversity, non-judgemental, non-discriminating etc. (That kind of morality doesn't necessarily make liberals nice people - Deveny justifies her aggressive rudeness in the debate by claiming she is "intolerant of intolerance".)
And so Jensen is proving himself a good person in the liberal sense when he takes the merely negative view that we simply don't judge or discriminate when it comes to borders. But by falling in line with "it is negative values which makes someone a good person" Jensen becomes blind to more traditional positive values, such as the value of people having a homeland in which they can maintain a larger ethnic tradition of their own, and develop their own culture, and fulfil the human desire to pass on their own tradition from one generation to the next and so on.
The second error is that in stating "welcome people, don't judge them" Jensen is encouraging the liberal idea that race or ethnicity, as predetermined, unchosen qualities ("accidents of birth") shouldn't matter. There is no way that a churchman should sign on to such a political position, as the logic of this position leads away from the Christian tradition. For instance, if ethnicity should be made not to matter because it is a predetermined, unchosen quality, then so too should our sex - the fact of being a man or a woman. But this then means that Biblical views of the family have to be jettisoned, something that Jensen is reluctant to accept. For instance, later in the debate Jensen defends the traditional family on these grounds:
What we're seeing, I think, is a clash of world views between what I’d call individualism and what you may call family or, in a sense, community. It's a clash of world views which is going on all around us and it has drastic consequences one way or another. If you agree with me that a man is a man and a woman is a woman and although they are we are absolutely equal, equal in the sight of God, both made in the image of God, both with the same destiny, both with the same value, all those things are inherent in the Christian gospel and they must remain in the Christian gospel, agree with that and yet, on the other hand, I would say there are differences between men and women which both sides bring to a marriage and we have not been good recently at working out what it is that men bring to marriage and women bring to marriage.
Jensen can't have it both ways. First, when it comes to refugees then he is the individualist who denies natural forms of human community in favour of the view that "we should all be seen as individuals who can fit in anywhere equally well". Second, when it comes to refugees he is happy to go along with the liberal idea that a predetermined quality like ethnicity shouldn't matter; how then can he expect to hold the line when he argues that a predetermined quality like a person's sex should be thought to matter?
Jensen's third error, and perhaps critical error, is to go along with the liberal understanding of solidarity. Traditionally solidarity was based on loyalty to those you had a close and particular connection to or relationship with, such as your family, your community, your ethny, your nation and so on. Liberals have stood this traditional notion of solidarity on its head, by asserting that solidarity is based on compassion toward the marginalised other.
In practice this means that white liberal women like Catherine Deveny will identify against their own men and in favour of those seen as most "other" - perhaps black men or Muslim men.
Jensen does nothing to assert the traditional view in response to women like Deveny. He only fans the flames when he says things like the following:
When you talk to refugees, my business means I catch taxis from time to time, which means I talk to all sorts of taxi drivers, many of whom have university degrees and are highly skilled people who are going to make this - build this nation for us. But they do come from different places. I have met some from Afghanistan but they do come from different places and we've got to remember that the struggles that have brought them here are true in many places in the world. Our program has got to be such that we'll bring people here, preferably the people who are suffering most
He believes that it is the suffering other who is going to "make this - build this nation for us". He has an elevated view of them and a correspondingly diminished view of us, who are presumably incompetent to do the job.
It's terribly unwise for someone in his position to go anywhere near the liberal attitude to solidarity. He is, after all, an older white male in a position of responsibility. Therefore, he is going to be one of the ones who is identified against - it is a case of solidarity against white males just like him. And if he is tainted then so inevitably is his church.
Deveny reminded him of this during the debate. When Archbishop Jensen tried to defend the church by arguing that the church sees everyone as having equality, she interrupted him to deny that everyone has it:
I'm sorry, a white middle class man like you does have it. Try being disabled, try being an asylum seeker, try being gay, try being a woman, you’ll find it's not there.
He is being put in his place as "a white middle class man" - there is no solidarity with the likes of him.
And what of Jensen's complacent attitude that it is Muslim refugees who are going to build Australia and that we should just welcome anyone and not judge? The timing of his comments was not exactly great, was it? In recent times we've seen Muslims in Norway demand that part of the city of Oslo become a Muslim quarter; Muslims in Libya brutally murder the American ambassador; Muslims in Sydney hospitalise two police officers in demonstrations against a film made in the US by a Copt; and demonstrations and riots in many countries around the world against the same film.
We have embraced the wrong sort of solidarity, one in which natural ties of loyalty have been discarded.