God’s voting intentionsby Michael McGirr
The Victorian state elections, held last weekend, failed to excite much interest in the small town of Inner Springs, population 531. Few people have heard of Steve Bracks. A lot haven’t even heard of Victoria.
But year’s end sees a flurry of democracy in a small community such as ours. In the space of a few short weeks, we see elections for the show committee, the executive of the Lions Club, the management of the Community Health Service, the secretary of the Bush Fire Brigade, the parents’ council of the pre-school and the supreme governing council of the fishing club.
Democracy in Inner Springs has a flavour all of its own. In most elections, such as for the senate, 20 people will vie for six seats. Here, on the other hand, six people have to fill 20 seats.
People go to remarkable lengths to ensure they are not elected. During the year, reasonable numbers turn up to most meetings of most organisations, if only for the cup of tea afterwards. But then everyone disappears for the AGM. This process is known locally as branch pruning. Dalton Spivey had been dead for six years before anyone would take over his post as secretary of the cricket club. Nobody seemed too concerned. The club had batted on for 30 years without a single item of correspondence.
The local priest, Fr Thong, has been delighted that the Holy Father has managed to squeeze a visit to Turkey into his hectic schedule. Fr Thong who once went to Turkey has been telling parishioners that he was greeted by protests, just like the Holy Father. In point of fact, Thong was mobbed by a large number of noisy people offering to help him find a taxi, a hotel or a companion for the evening. They weren’t protesting about anything other than the fact that Thong did not require their services.
Thong has been disappointed, however, by the media coverage of the Pope’s pilgrimage to Turkey. He believes the media has drawn too much attention to the Pope’s relationship with Islam. It has failed to point out that the real reason the Pope is going to Turkey is to follow in the steps of the Anzacs. He believes Gallipoli is the cornerstone of Australian spirituality.
Thong also likes to keep up with trends. He has started an Advent website called E-Manual.
The lights have gone up in the main street of Inner Springs for another festive season. This year, as a gesture towards the environment, the lights will be solar powered. So far, this means they can only work during the day. The council is addressing the issue. The mayor, Howard Winston, has suggested he may solve the problem by introducing 12 hours of daylight saving such that midday will officially become midnight, so no-one can complain about not having lights at night.
My neighbour, Cardinal Shallots has been telling me that he likes all the old Christmas Carols, the ones that never fit an Australian Christmas. He loves singing ‘silent night’ in a church full of screaming kids. He loves seeing one or two of our older parishioners who are hard of hearing singing ‘Angels we have heard on high’, knowing full well they can hardly hear the person next to them. He loves seeing people who don’t darken the church door from one Christmas to the next belting out ‘O Come All ye Faithful’. He loves all the songs about snow and winter’s darkness, even when Christmas is in the middle of a drought and the light is harsh.
‘It’s the very contradictions which make it wonderful,’ he says. ‘Christianity is full of contradictions. The whole idea that a little baby is enough to outbalance anything else that has happened in the whole of history. Of course, it doesn’t make sense.
‘The beauty of Christmas in Australia is that we have a long tradition of contradiction. Christmas is not really Christmas if it makes sense. It needs to make you scratch your head.
‘After all, Christmas says a lot about God’s voting intentions. Most of the time, God votes for the least suitable candidate.’