Kevin Rudd's Finding the Rock of Faith in Politics

17 November 2015

Kevin Rudd's Finding the Rock of Faith in Politics

On November 10th at Trinity College, Melbourne, the Hon Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Prime Minister of Australia (2007-2010, 2013), Foreign Minister of Australia (2010-12) gave the 2015 Dr Rowan Williams Annual CUAC Lecture titled Faith, Ethics and Climate Change.” Kevin is a graduate of Bergmann College, an Anglican college in Canberra, where he met his wife Thérèse Rein.  He addressed climate change on the eve of the coming Paris Climate Summit later this month.  Sustainability is a critical concern of Anglican colleges and was the subject of a recent Triennial Conference in Sewanee, Tennessee.

In a final question from the audience, however, he became personal and reflected on how politics fueled his faith journey.

Luke Hopkins, doctoral student at Trinity’s Theological College, asked Mr. Rudd the final question:

“In your time as a diplomat and as a politician, How has that changed shaped, affected your own personal understanding of God?”

Kevin responded:

“People in the political process are just made of flesh and blood.  They regularly stuffs up, then dust themselves off and keep going.  I am always reminded of the author of the Book of Hebrews who talks about ‘running the race that is set before us, bearing in mind he who is the author and perfecter of our faith.’

“If you reflect on the Christian Gospel and Biblical tradition, there is something which is rich, there about simple spiritual resilience.  Last time I looked, Jesus of Nazareth did not have a smooth ride; it was a bit bumpy. And I look at the history of the apostles: it was a sticky end for the most of them.

“And so I think even when things in the vocation of one's political life does not turn out as a bed or roses, you become much, much more deeply attached to an enduring reliance on God. 

“It becomes much less theoretical, it becomes genuinely a daily thing when you are dealing with complexities you can't quite get your head around, variables you can never control, outcomes which to everyone else in the Australian community seem perfectly clear and easy to do by lunchtime the next day, with the challenge is of communicating the above in the complexity of public life.

“People have asked me, for example, how does one, how have myself and family come through our own times in politics, which as you know has become a remarkably public affair and has been recently reported on (you may have read some of the clippings).  My answer to this is that had I not had a rock of faith on which to rely this would have been infinitely more difficult.  I admire fundamentally those who proceed without profound ethical constructions on which they rely who find resilience in a political career in the face of powers of destruction; or, alternatively, or they are utterly cavalier and don't give a damn, I am not sure.  Something about the rock of faith, I think, becomes more real.

“Some of you have read some of the things I have written before. You cannot look at the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and say that that was a bed of roses, a few Nazis here and there, not a problem. If your read Bonhoeffer carefully his was not a perfect life.  This guy was as failed as the rest of us in some respects. But he had a deep sense of Christian responsibility and duty. If you read his last writings not just in Tegel but when he was sent south to the concentration camps to be executed in the last two weeks of the war, it is remarkable. It isn't that he didn't experience many long nights of the soul, he did.  You read Letters from Prison; he had many dark nights of the soul.  But this guy had (in his often impenetrable German theological language) still a simple resilience, a rock of faith.  These folk have serious problems to contend with. I have just been in public office for a bit and doing a few other things, so it is different”

Kevin concluded, “For all of us, the resilience which comes from the rock of faith is important.”

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L-R The Hon Kevin Rudd & Bishop Martin Wharton Vice Chairman of the CUAC board and retired bishop of Newcastle

Bergmann College’s principal Dr. Philip Dutton, who rose to give the word of thanks said, “This evening we have been urged in the most compelling ways by a man who lives life at full tilt at a public and international level to consider still at the deepest level our own values based in faith – a strong compulsion and challenge not to ignore or take lightly the future we will share and hope to pass on.”

CUAC’s General Secretary, The Revd Canon James G. Callaway, noted: “This was our first Rowan Williams Lecture from a lay perspective. Kevin spoke as the son of an Anglican college, with the experience of leading a nation and critically reflecting on the critical matters of climate change.”

The Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC) is a world-wide network of 135 Anglican colleges and universities which exists for the mutual flourishing of its members through engaging each other, their churches and their society, as they seek to enable their students, staff, and faculties to become active and responsive citizens in God’s world.

This is the third Dr Rowan Williams Annual CUAC Lecture:

Rowan Williams at Canterbury Christ Church 28 September 2012: "What is the Point of an Anglican University?"

Dr. Sathi Clarke at Lady Doak, Madurai, India 11 November 2013: "TransAnglican Identities and Christian University Education" and

Kevin Rudd at Trinity Melbourne 10 November 2015: “Faith, Ethics and Climate Change.”

A podcast of the Leture and a transcript can be found here

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