The Pastor Politician

On May 21, Australians won’t simply elect a Prime Minister but the nation’s “comforter-in-chief”.

Bushfires, floods, and pandemic: Australians have weathered plenty of crises over the last few years. Who do they look to in times of trouble – and what do they want from those who lead them?

In this Life & Faith, we explore an unofficial but significant part of any political leader’s job: their responsibility to not only steer people through a crisis but also comfort them with empathy, compassion, and wisdom. 

Regardless of whether we have a Prime Minister or a President, we also want our leader to be a pastor to the nation.

Tim Costello, Senior Fellow at CPX, explains the role of the pastor and how former Australian Prime Ministers have inhabited that role over time.

Erin Wilson, Professor of Politics and Religion at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, explains how “civil religion” – the intertwining of religious symbols and language with the political state – accounts for the “priestly role” of national leaders.

Mike Baird, Former NSW Premier, gives an insight to the pastoral role he played during the aftermath of the Lindt Café Siege in Sydney.

We also hear a few American presidents in that “comforter-in-chief” mode and sample the stylings of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in this area as she prepared New Zealanders to bunker down in the fight against Covid-19.


Want more on civil religion? Read Erin Wilson’s article for CPX 

Hear more about what Mike Baird has been up to since leaving politics

Listen in on Part 1 and Part 2 of Life & Faith’s interview with Tim Costello as he looks back over a long career advocating for social justice