Gay activists have welcomed calls from high-profile federal Labor politician Kevin Rudd for more compassionate Christian involvement in politics, saying greater influence by progressive Christians could help gay and lesbian reform.

In an eight-page essay published in the October edition of political magazine The Monthly, the shadow foreign affairs minister called for Christians to take a less moralistic role in politics and social issues, including attitudes to homosexuality.

In both George Bush’s America and John Howard’s Australia, we see today the political orchestration of various forms of organised Christianity in support of the conservative incumbency, Rudd wrote.

I argue that a core, continuing principle -¦ should be that Christianity -¦ must always take the side of the marginalised, the vulnerable and the oppressed.

The comments came as right-wing Christian group Exclusive Brethren was attracting attention for alleged anti-gay activism in Australia and overseas.

Rudd, a Christian, argued conservative churches’ moralistic focus on sexuality was misguided given Christianity’s social justice origins.

I see very little evidence that this preoccupation with sexual morality is consistent with the spirit and content of the Gospels, he wrote in the essay.

For example, there is no evidence of Jesus of Nazareth expressly preaching against homosexuality. In contrast, there is considerable evidence of the Nazarene preaching against poverty and the indifference of the rich.

A spokesperson for Rudd said the Labor MP was calling for a different Christian role in politics rather than an expanded one.

What he is saying is that over recent years Australians have been hearing one set of Christian views on politics and that’s been an overwhelmingly conservative one, the spokesperson told Sydney Star Observer.

Rudd’s essay drew praise from gay activists, who said more political involvement by progressive Christians could strengthen law reform efforts.

He’s saying that Christians should be encouraging positive and good outcomes on social issues, and that involves tackling issues of sexuality and how we deal fairly with same-sex couples, Rod Swift from lobby group Australian Coalition for Equality told the Star.

We know that people of faith have had quite strong views on social justice and things like refugees and immigration, and they do have strong social justice elements on sexuality issues as well.

We would hope that Kevin Rudd would come out very strongly and say that equality and understanding and a dialogue on same-sex couples is the Christian thing to do.

Another leading activist, Rodney Croome, also welcomed Rudd’s essay.

It’s a step in the right direction for Kevin Rudd to be giving voice to socially progressive Christian values, Croome told the Star.

Like it or not, Christians who believe in tolerance and equality and inclusion have played a crucial part in most if not all successful battles for gay and lesbian equality.

But Croome said Rudd needed to make a more explicit call for gay law reform.

He says we shouldn’t be judging people on the basis of sexuality, but he doesn’t see the next important step [that] we should be giving justice despite their sexuality, he said.

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