i’m boycotting australia day: not for the reasons you think

So, I’m boycotting Australia Day… in a sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be Australian and this isn’t a post because I am disenchanted with Australians, nor is it a post which comes out of some negativity or frustration.

Many of you who know me, know that I am passionate (sometimes that has been an understatement) about Aboriginal issues, particularly relating to social justice. Many of you, perhaps, are expecting this post to be a slam against white Australians because Australia Day actually falls on the Day white men invaded Aboriginal Australia (for an article on this, see  Matt Anslow’s post).

But that is not what this is about… no really, its not.

Australia Day is a day of nationalistic pride (for some… but I’m not going into that). It’s a day we wear the flag on our shorts, shirts, sunnies, beer coolers, umbrellas, as tattoos… just about everything. Its  a day to celebrate quintessentially Aussie things. We stand up as Aussies to pledge allegiance to our country… all be it by sculling another beer while wearing Aussie Flag boardies and sporting a southern cross tattoo across our backs.

Some people on Australia Day have been told that if they are not pratriotic enough, then get out! The classic bumper sticker of  few years ago: “If you don’t love it, LEAVE IT”.

But what is patriotism? What is it to pledge allegiance to someone or something?

Shane Claiborne says;

The root of the words allegiance means “Lord”; that’s exactly what the early Christians were executed for, for pledging allegiance to another Kingdom, another Lord…

Shane Claiborne [2006], The Irresistable Revolution, pg 194

Sunset on Babylon by Raphael Lacoste

In the Old Testament, we find Israel exiled into Babylon by the superior might and force of Nebuchadnezzar. During this exile, the Jews were allowed to live in their own settlements amidst the capital and other Babylonian cities. They had their own homes, they worked and earnt a living, they could still practise Jewish customs and some even rose to high and prominent positions in the Babylonian Empire.

Life was good in Babylon. Many had become so attached to life in Babylon that they refused to return to Jerusalem even when the opportunity arose later on. They had become comfortable in Babylon and were no longer living like exiles,  but more like citizens of the Babylonian Empire.

While Australia Day is most certainly not the only day we live and celebrate our citizenship in Australia, the way we live, what we buy, what we value, tells us who and what we have pledged allegiance to, what we are citizens of.

The “good life” in our country, the comfortable nature of many of our lifestyles, our devotion to consumerism and materialism (which can be seen on a day such as Australia Day) indicates that we are comfortable in this “Empire”, in our Babylon.

Tony Campollo says, “We may live in the best Babylon in the world, but it is still Babylon and we are called to ‘come out of her’.”

As Christians, we are exiles. Yet, do we live as exiles? Shane Claiborne writes;

John warns the Church in Asia Minor to be “faithful [loyal] until death” (Rev. 2:10). He describes a marriage between God and God’s people. They are to be loyal to their lover, Yahweh, their faith remaining in God alone, adorned as a bride, the New Jersusalem. Describing Rome as the whoring seductress Babylon the Great, John warns the Christians that the empire will entice them with a counterfeit splendor, and he warns against fliriting with her pleasures and treasures, which will soon come to ruin. They are not to be shocked and awed by Babylon’s power nor dazed by her jewels. Rather than drinking humanities blood from her golden cup of suffering (17.6), they are to choose the eucharistic cup filled with the blood of the new covenant. We are faithful, not to the triumphant golden eagle… but to the slaughtered Lamb.

Shane Claiborne [2006], The Irresistable Revolution, pg 197

We belong to a Kingdom far greater than Australia. Our allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, the New Jersusalem.

We are not to get too comfortable here. We are not to give in to seeing the beauty and wealth of life here, of this Empire, this Babylon, and forget that we are exiles. We are not to live as citizens of this Kingdom. We are citizens of another.

Martin Luther King said that we are;

 bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism… This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr., ‘A time to break silence’ (speech), New York, April 4, 1967

So I’m boycotting Australian Day… kind of. I’m proud to be Australian, but I’m an exile here. This is only Babylon. I am a citizen of another Kingdom and my allegiance lies with her.

— Jono

About Jono Ingram

Placemaker in Aintree in Melbourne's west, urban gardener, localist & neighbourhood enthusiast

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Nice work Jono. Let his kingdom come!

  2. That’s interesting, Jono. Good on you. Babylon is viewed variously in the OT. In Ps 137, the exiles say they will never settle down, never assimilate, never forgive Babylon; whereas in Jeremiah 29, the prophet says, Work for the shalom of the city of Babylon and in its peace, you will find peace….you will also find Me if you search for Me with all your heart.
    We are citizens of a different Kingdom, but we hold dual citizenship. It is a moot point how much of the joys of our Australian kingdom we enjoy without betraying our other allegiance. I went to the Aus Day breakfast and sang the anthem with my bedraggled community of immigrants and farmers (no indigenous people were there), wishing them well in their quest for shalom, for community, for hope. A Year 12 guy from our church was awarded Junior Citizen of the Year for his work at building that community.

    • Thanks for that Geoff. I appreacite your wise reflections. I have a tendancy sometimes to run with an idea and neglect to truely think about all aspects (just ask my old college lecturers who marked my essays).

      I love that Jeremiah 29:4-23 passage there and that is perhaps something that I overlooked in this post aside, perhaps, from a brief (and unexplained) mention in Dr. King’s quote towards the end.

      Below I have written some reflections of what you said and I would appreciate any more of your wise and thoughtful comments on them…

      I think you’re right that we can enjoy “the joys of our Aussie kingdom without betraying our other allegiance”. That’s why I am only “kind of” boycotting Australia Day, in a sense. There is nothing wrong with anthems and BBQs and the flag or many other things about Australia Day, particularly when they are aligned with the values of God’s Kingdom (such as the things you mentioned). It is when we pledge our allegiance to values of this Kingdom that are opposed to God’s Kingdom, some of which (unfortunately) come out on most Australia Days (binge drinking, consumerism/materialism, racism etc). I am not implying that if you celebrate Australia Day you are pledging your allegiance to these things, not in the slighest. You can still celebrate Australia Day, as an exile, in a way that promotes the love, peace and unity of the Kingdom of God.

      Our job as exiles is to live in ways which reflect the values of the Kingdom we belong, not remove ourselves from society (as some communities have done) – to “build houses and settle down; plant garden and eat what they produce… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, yout too will prosper.” (Jer 29). We are to live in this city, but as exiles – ie to remember the Kingdom we truely belong, and not forget, and live according to her values. When we do live in this city as exiles according to the values of the Kingdom of God, we will bring peace, love, joy, gentleness, community and all the things that will better this place we live in.

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