Two more John Campbell profiles of our political leaders, thanks Caleb!:
Russell Norman and David Cunliffe. I don't think I am doing anyone a disservice if I point out (as others have done) that the star of the second video is Karen Price, David's wife.
One of the odd things about politics, as these profiles are making plain, is that the best interests of ordinary New Zealanders are served by having extraordinary New Zealanders in charge of the country. No one is going to be Prime Minister these days who has merely average abilities. Key has a fortune, Cunliffe has several degrees, Norman has a doctorate, Harawira has prophetic vision. (I suppose we will get to Winston Peters one day - he has extraordinary abilities in wiliness but will never be Prime Minister). Thus, in a funny way, our leaders have to pretend to understand our needs while not experiencing those needs themselves (except perhaps some years back in a different time and era when they may have been poor or at least much poorer than they are today).
One of the points David Cunliffe makes in the video interview, as he acknowledges that he has done well in life, is that the state helped him get there, especially in terms of education.
On the whole NZ likes its government to provide a helping hand in life. Much of our politics is an argument about how much the hand should help. Last week's budget - Bill English's sixth budget - is a fascinating example of an ostensibly 'right-wing' government revealing its true 'centre-right' colours with some offerings that steal ideas from the 'centre-left': financially astute and politically adept. Once you extend paid parental leave, for example, by a number of weeks but less weeks than what the centre-left is proposing, the argument is about details and not about the concept itself. When, to give another example, a government finds funds to extend the age for which free visits to the doctor for children apply, there is no doubt that a subscription is being paid to the idea that governments in NZ exist to give a helping hand.
Interestingly there is always a price to pay for the hand to help, whether through rising taxes, borrowing, diminishing investment in things which generate less inspiring headlines but a re good for the country in the long run, or all the above. Unsurprisingly, Rod Oram points out some hard truths about this year's budget here.
So, what about the politics of Jesus and our situation in Aotearoa New Zealand? Would Jesus be happy with this year's budget as a kind of 'best we can do, given the situation re global economy, local tax take, needs of people, all balanced with not borrowing to the nth degree' budget?
I suggest Jesus would be pretty happy as an ordinary citizen of the land. After all, there are signs in the gospel that he made no particular criticism of the overall programme of Roman rule in so far as it imposed taxes and provided law and order. Further, I think Jesus was a realist: he would know that this year's budget is a budget of the people for the people since it is the budget - more or less - any government of any stripe would propose in order to express their will in anticipation of its expression in the polling booth.
But what the politics of Jesus proposes is a new way for people to be people (and thus for governments to be different as the people change). In the upside down kingdom of God, attitudes to material achievement in life is or should be different to the values outside the kingdom. How this might change a budget in Aotearoa New Zealand is an interesting speculation to make. It has never been tried here before.