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November 2003
Kevin Rudd talks about his faith

by Helen Woodall

"I make no apology for the fact that I am a Christian. I came to faith 25 years ago and it was a mature, considered, adult decision," the Hon Kevin Rudd, the Federal Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, said last month. "But I am still as failed and as flawed as the rest of humanity," he added, "so being a Christian is a continuing personal and professional challenge."

Speaking at the Melbourne Prayer Breakfast at the Grand Hyatt, Mr Rudd, who is an Anglican, said that Jesus didn't separate private religion and public action. "He told us to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and so on. He put no division between the spiritual and the professional. All Christians have a common concern for the poor and for injustice wherever it is found but only a government is powerful enough to deal with large-scale issues such as slavery, child labour, providing universal education and public hospitals."

He continued: "Sometimes there is debate over whether or not government action is subverting the individual's freedom. But Jesus taught us that love requires action. Jesus was a profoundly spiritual person but his death was also a major political statement. He cannot be compartmentalised."

Mr Rudd spoke about some of his heroes. "My hero is the son of an obscure Scottish coal miner who had no formal education. He taught himself to read using the Bible and founded the British Labour Party. Keir Hardy, a Presbyterian, was a man who said he could not sing hymns with people on Sunday and ignore their terrible working conditions on Monday. He said he believed in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men."

He said another hero was Andrew Fisher, a 17-year-old devout Presbyterian who helped shape social change in Australia.

He warned the 780-strong audience that the people in parliament were representative of those in the community and that as society was becoming increasingly de-churched they should not be surprised at the lack of Christians in politics.

"The church has lost its salt and light in the world. You are the agents of change in your communities. What you get in Canberra is representative of what is happening right across the country. It is up to you to change it.

"The prayers of the nation are required to craft a new world where there will be no more Balis. The longer I am in Canberra the more I am persuaded that we need your prayers for wisdom - a wisdom far beyond our own. We need your prayers for vision for without a vision the people perish. And we need your prayers for courage.

"The fact that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life finds little resonance in Canberra," he said. "But Jesus was not about spin. He was about truth however discomforting it may be politically. Pray that we might be the way, the truth and the life in the national political life of Australia," he concluded to prolonged applause.

Helen Woodall is editor of New Life, a national Christian newspaper