nature worship

Why Enshrine a Religion of Nature and Ancestor Worship in Our Constitution and Government?

13 October 2023

6.2 MINS

The media has talked for months about enshrining the Voice to Parliament and Executive Government into the constitution. A shrine is something you worship at. What are we meant to worship? In my book on Voice Treaty Truth: Has a Christian Voice Been Heard? I discuss this in detail, but here I want to flag a few things and start with an issue brought up by other authors in a recent book.

In The Spirit Behind the Voice, released in August 2023, Gabriel Moens, Augusto Zimmermann, and David Pellowe raise the issue that if the Voice referendum passes, we could breach Section 116 of the constitution about the separation between religion and government, church, and state.

What does Section 116 say?

“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

And what is it in the Uluru Statement from the Heart about Voice Treaty Truth that introduces a religious element into the constitution? The Final Report of the Referendum Council on 30 June 2017 after the May convention at Uluru reads,

“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed under our own law and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial,’ and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’ and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?” [i]

As Prime Minister Albanese has committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, it appears First Nations proponents of the Voice not only want to make representations to the government, but are making their demands for sovereignty and land ownership based on Aboriginal spirituality. There are creation stories, belief in the supernational, rituals or ceremonies, and the passing of their spirituality to the next generation through initiation or teaching of stories and dance, etc.

Subtle Spread

We already have Aboriginal spirituality and culture that has become part of our everyday lives with Welcome to Country ceremonies that need to be performed before government and community meetings and conferences, meeting after meeting in a never-ending ritual. This has extended to some Christian church services and conferences, sporting events, loudspeakers of shopping centres and Qantas aeroplanes. It is certainly polite and respectful to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we hold meetings, but Christians and those of other faiths or no faith at all basically have to sit through a religious ceremony where creation stories of that location or ‘country’ are told, and sometimes there is a dance that tells one of these stories.

At some of these events, including the opening of parliament and in some churches, there are smoking ceremonies to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes, good spirits are invoked. S 116 of the constitution says that religious observance should not be imposed on anyone. What further developments could we look forward to with a Voice enshrined in the constitution that seeks to transform Australia into its own image? Under the guise of respecting First Nations culture, will we have to bow to Aboriginal spirituality or religion?

I am reminded of Daniel in the Bible (Daniel 6) when the administrators and satraps were jealous of Daniel’s leadership and favour with King Darius. They urged the king to make a decree that anyone who prayed to any other God or human besides King Darius would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel was seen praying to the God of Israel and was thrown into the lion’s den to the King’s distress. However, an angel rescued Daniel to the King’s relief, and his accusers were thrown into the lion’s den instead. King Darius issued a decree that Daniel’s God was the one true God to be worshipped by all in his kingdom.

Palpably Pagan

More First Nations people are Christians than those who follow an Aboriginal spirituality that involves the pagan beliefs of nature worship, ancestor worship, animism, and spiritism (communicating with spirits of the dead). The Cambridge Dictionary defines animism as “the belief that all natural things such as plants, animals, rocks, and thunder have spirits and can influence human events.” Creation stories are called Dreamtime or the Dreaming, and it is believed that spirit ancestors were creator beings, and their paths as they created are called Dreaming tracks. The Dreamtime involves the past, present, and future and is omnipresent.

The creation of rivers by the rainbow serpent is perhaps best known, but there are many other stories that differ by tribe. Creation stories are often depicted in art or body paintings, as well as being told through stories, dance, and rituals. The Dreamtime Aboriginal Art Library says,

“The land and the people were created by the Spirits. They made the rivers, streams, water holes the land, hills, rocks, plants, and animals. It is believed that the Spirits gave them their hunting tools and each tribe its land, their totems, and their Dreaming. They believed that the entire world was made by their Ancestors way back in the very beginning of time, the Dreamtime. The Ancestors made everything.” [ii]

Respect for the dead and spiritual ancestors plays a major role in Aboriginal Australian worship. Spirits of the dead inhabit certain sacred sites as well as an afterlife in the sky. Respect for ancestors is fine, but worshipping them or consulting the dead is not godly. I am reminded of King Saul consulting the witch of Endor to bring up the prophet Samuel from the dead so he could consult him because the spirit of the Lord had left him and he missed God’s guidance. 1 Chronicles 10:13 says,

“So, Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.”

Praeger gives a Jewish biblical perspective on the worship of Mother Earth,

“Regarding worship of mother earth, the Torah takes an entirely different view. As explained at length in my Torah commentary, “The Rational Bible,” the first verse of the Bible — “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth” — contains the most radical idea in history. It stated, for the first time in history, that God created nature and is not part of nature. It is one of the reasons I believe the Torah is God-given. No human beings 3,000 years ago in the late Bronze Age would have come up with an idea so opposed to the way the human mind naturally works — to regard gods as part of nature.

From the point of view of the secular, Gaia-worshipping world, Genesis gets even worse when, 27 verses later, God tells human beings to, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” [iii]

Would Christian First Nations people who do not subscribe to traditional Aboriginal spirituality be acceptable to serve on the Voice? There may be a few who subscribe to syncretism and can accommodate both, but if they have spiritual discernment, they are likely to see that the two don’t mix. S116 of the constitution would be violated if First Nations Christians were not welcome, as a religious test should not be required for public office.

Exclusion

Pellowe raises the issue of natural landmarks like Uluru and national parks being designated as sacred and access to them by the public curtailed, seeing this as establishing a state religion or imposing a religious observance on everyone. We need to respect Aboriginal spirituality and culture in a sensitive manner, but he raises some warning bells,

“This isn’t just a benign democratic exercise in private property rights as enjoyed by every mosque, synagogue, temple, and cathedral. It’s an exclusion from public land common to all Australians, by the imposition of one favoured religion upon everyone. Only subjective religious belief as described by the Uluru Statement supports a view that is contrary to public ownership. Mt Warning in northern South Wales, the Grampians in Victoria, and the peaks in Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains are also being asserted as ‘sacred’ to Aboriginal people.” [iv]

The designers of the Australian constitution saw themselves as being inspired by God and establishing a nation, a federation of states, based on the Judeo-Christian heritage. The preamble of the constitution states that “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, had agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth.”

Regarding the sacred tie to land in the Uluru Statement, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1)

See much more on this topic and other issues in Voice Treaty Truth: Has the Christian Voice Been Heard?

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[i]Final Report of the Referendum Council’, Referendum Council, 30 June 2017

[ii] Artlandish Dreamtime Aboriginal Art Library

[iii] Praeger, Dennis (2020), Genesis Was Right: We Need to Subdue, Not Worship, Nature

[iv] Pellowe, Dave (2023) “The Voice and Freedom of Religion” in Moens, Gabriel and Zimmermann, Augusto (eds) (2023) The Spirit Behind the Voice: The Religious Dimension Behind the “Voice” Proposal Redland Bay, Qld: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, p. 139.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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3 Comments

  1. Graham Mclennan 13 October 2023 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Excellent article though the concept of “First Nations” is also a myth as there were several migrations to this country before the present indigenous people. Murrayians, Carpentarians, Negritos…

  2. Warwick Marsh 13 October 2023 at 9:21 am - Reply

    This is an excellent article with some very incisive thinking and biblical exposition. Ps Norman and Barbara Miller helped launch the Canberra Declaration on the 23 July 2010.. Ps Norman is a well known indigenous Christian leader.

  3. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich 13 October 2023 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Wonderful expose, but, too late as reports are 5 million had already voted on “The Voice “. Aboriginal religion is about Sorcery, curses and “Pointing the Bone “—Satanic practices which no Christian church should condone or participate in. I am no lover of the Monarchy , but, The Voice “is a “Trojan Horse to bring in tyranny , change the Constitution to remove our Freedoms, make enormous changes, perhaps replace us with President Turnbull or Albanese ( or others ) with wide-sweeping powers to remain in power for life like Putin , Xi, etc. We must be ready asap for this next battle to establish Aboriginal Religion which may be much harder to win given the ignorance of the general population about what the Constitution and “innocuous ” Aboriginal Spirituality ( which is being forced on our children ) mean .

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