Chaplain idea an insult to youth

The crass insensitivity of some conservative Federal Members of Parliament sank to a new low this week.

Andrew Wallace and Assistant Youth Minister Luke Howarth, citing psychological damage to children that they said was caused by what they called exaggerated alarm over climate change, called for a boost to the school chaplaincy program.

Others in the Coalition supported or joined them. It happened in the party room, so full details are not known, but enough has leaked out because of inter-factional rivalry in the party that former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says has no factions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison took the concerns on board. He would, given his religiosity. And he might have to appease the religious right with some form of sop if he cannot get enough support for “religious freedom” legislation to allow religious organisations to use the law as a sword to discriminate against minorities rather than only as a shield to protect religious people from being discriminated against.

In short, the psychological health of young Australians is being used as a bargaining chip by the Liberal Party factions.

This should be called out. These ignorant and intellectually challenged MPs completely misunderstand the problem. The children are psychologically upset not because of the climate crisis per se, but because they see Australian conservative politicians in power as doing nothing about it.

If the young people saw a concerted effort and detailed plan to deal with global heating here and across the globe, they would have some psychological comfort. Their justified anguish about their future is caused by the Coalition’s lack of action.

Adding chaplains does not alleviate that anguish. It merely adds to it. It says nobody is listening to young people’s concerns.

Global heating is being caused by human action and it requires human action to fix it. Appeals to a white-robed bearded man in the sky and putting on a few extra chaplains does not cut the mustard. It is a insult to the intelligence of young Australians. 

It says that politicians do not understand the problem and have no effective response to young people’s justified alarm and concerns. That is aside from it being a waste of $250 million over four years that would be better spent on climate action or teachers.

The anguish is not being caused by those sounding the alarm bells and calling for action to put out the flames. It is being caused by those adding fuel to the flames or denying that there is a problem or refusing to do enough quickly enough if there is.

If Coalition MPs are worried about the mental health of young people, they should address them by changing their climate policies to give them hope.

Not only this. The chaplains are not qualified to give advice to children who are suffering psychological trauma. The Bible is not a textbook on adolescent psychology. Indeed, unqualified chaplains are more likely to do harm than good.

The chaplaincy program pays utterly unqualified people to spout mumbo jumbo to children – it is a form of child abuse.

Indeed, the other thing about the chaplaincy arrangement is this: the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse tells us that in addition to fears about global heating young people should have equal fear of the purveyors of religion in schools and in the community. It is madness to imagine the latter can ever be an antidote to the former.

Worse, the chaplaincy program is designed as a leech upon all the mums and dads in the public-school system because it requires some homegrown funding to be reached before the federal funding for the chaplain kicks in. So, these schools waste effort on misguided sausage sizzles to get a bit of money together to qualify for a chaplain.

My advice to those public schools would be: do not raise the money. Do not qualify for the chaplaincy. You are not missing out on anything. In fact, if the money you raise through sausage sizzles is quarantined from the chaplaincy program you will be protecting your children against religious propsganda. Save your sausage sizzles for your library or computer programs.

By the way, the Labor Party is equally culpable. It allowed itself to be disgracefully wedged on this.  Chaplaincy was a Howard invention. The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Governments should have cut it dead, but instead they continued to fund it.

But a reckoning is coming on both fronts. We can only hope it is not too late. This week an Australian Conservation Council survey revealed majorities in all electorates want greater action on climate change. And a Foundations for Tomorrow survey showed 93 per cent of people under 30 want stronger action on climate.

These trends suggest the Coalition will lose more votes over climate than it can hope to gain by taking donations from fossil industries and using the money for their campaign at the next election.

And more climate-aware young people have come on to the electoral rolls since 2019.

Labor should heed these trends and strengthen its climate policies.

On the religion front, new research reveals that the increase in religiosity between 2000 and 2007 has been reversed between 2007 and 2019. The research by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris reported in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs shows people became less religious between 2007 and 2019 in 43 of the 49 countries studied, including the US.

“The decline in belief was not confined to high-income countries and appeared across most of the world,” they report. 

The gender and sexual norms that the major world religions have instilled for centuries to maintain high birth rates are no longer needed in modern society, they say. And fears of a collapse of social cohesion and public morality are unfounded. Less religious countries have less corruption and lower murder rates.

Crispin Hull

This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Australian media on 4 September 2021.

6 thoughts on “Chaplain idea an insult to youth”

  1. Hope it’s not another excuse to promote Christian or ‘quiet Australian’ values to deflect from our policy inaction on climate change, environment and fossil fuel emissions? If I was younger I would be very concerned observing the same, yet the government’s solution is inflicting more religion on a less religious youth?

    Agree with Voyage au bout de la nuit on ageing voter demographics i.e. oldies and baby boomers, with their propensity to vote for the LNP, although the latter is lacking in robust environmental and/or fossil fuel policies, but firewall pensions, self funded retiree tax breaks and health care.

    Any growth in our permanent population i.e. excluding temporary resident churn over, is from neither fertility nor permanent immigration, but better health outcomes and longevity for the older demographics; replicated round the world but not understood (preference for focusing upon undefined ‘immigration’).

    Similar elsewhere i.e. ageing populations, dominated by a monocultural and less educated cohort, with short term horizons, while the same median voter ages in regions are approaching retirement age, versus younger demographics (of whom many emigrate from regions); this dynamic can be found amongst many Central Eastern European nations.

    Meanwhile older demographics are catered to and manipulated by legacy media and nativist authoritarian governments promoting Christianity, anti-immigrant sentiment and ‘pensioner populism’ on sociocultural issues aka the US GOP for supposedly more permanence in power…..

  2. Instead of relying on a book written about experiences 2,000 years ago, politicians should just look at the upward trend of atmospheric CO2 recorded at Mauna Loa observatory since 1959. In 1959 it was 316ppm, in July 2021 417ppm. It has increased from 414.6ppm in July 2020, by 2.3ppm, to 416.96ppm in July 2021. How can a religious chaplain reverse this trend?

  3. Brilliant Crispin, you hit the nail squarely on the head once more.
    I fear there are political representatives who believe a few prayers and a happy clapper sing-along will solve all our woes. Thankfully well informed, smart young people are not buying it.

  4. The irony-paradox is that sermonosing finger-pointing chaplains is likely to alienate the kids and make them less religious. Right of entry classes at our school in NSW was an opportunity to copy homework, pass notes around and give the Rabbi as much flack as we could by pointing out the flaws and contradictions in his teachings. My kids tell me it’s still the same. Bring on the chaplaincies! Ha! Ha! Wishing your Jewish readers a sweet and joyful year free of Covid, Anti-Vaxxers and the current Liberal-National government. And wishing the same to your non-Jewish readers and yourself, Crispin.

  5. Unfortunately, at the 2019 election (as per aph statistics) 59% of those aged 65 years and over voted for the LNP. In addition, a further 10% of this age group voted for minor parties like One Nation. These were the ones wooed with fear campaigns on the loss of franking credits and negative gearing together with “death taxes”. Whilst true the under 35 years group voted strongly towards the Greens and ALP it is the older demographic that needs to stand and be counted on behalf of their children and grandchildren.

  6. I can’t wait to see the Labour in command! Hopefully, it will stop coal, gas, fuel turbines and give every house a fan and a solar panel to supply electricity. Hospitals will get a bigger fan and more solar, on their parking places, obsoletes . Prime Minister Morrison has to govern in real life, not in the utopic world of the eolian and solar kingdom. The Germans decide to stop their nuclear turbines and guess, they ask the naughty French the sell them nuclear tainted electricity!

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