Paul Charman: Flag debate now religious

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Paul Charman claims the flag referendum is shaping up as a showdown between the old religion and the new.
The current New Zealand flag and the alternative flag. Photo / John Borren
The current New Zealand flag and the alternative flag. Photo / John Borren

That Union Jack on our flag is a combination of three heraldic crosses, so for some an uncomfortable reference to Christianity.

These crosses are for the patron saints of England, St George; of Scotland, St Andrew and of Ireland, St Patrick.

For many a Kiwi, they represent a religion and a heritage which is (or was) Christian and British respectively.

They also work well for people of other faiths and nationalities, but more on that later.
The proposed flag has been tainted by Mr Key's efforts to gerrymander acceptance among a public which never asked for, and mostly didn't want it.

The debate on which flag to adopt is religious not because New Zealand is Christian.

We're not Christian - the nearest thing we have to a national religion is the worship of celebrities.

So in my view, it was our pro-change Government which played the religion card first, by rounding up its "little gods" to teach us how to vote.

I was sanguine about the referendum, till the Change the NZ Flag campaign effectively launched an attack ad.

The campaign chairman and former National Party candidate for the Rimutaka electorate, Lewis Holden, published a video featuring pro-change celebrities, broadcasters, sports stars, retired politicians etc, all instructing us how to vote.

And just look at all the additional celebrities who have got in behind their cause since then.

The last large-scale attempt to patronise voters this way was the Citizens for Rowling campaign in 1975.

Somehow that old campaign even included Sir Edmund Hillary, who was part of a team of celebrities encouraging us to vote for Labour.

The idea was to unseat the then incumbent National Party Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon.

It all fell flat, of course, with Muldoon famously pointed out that, "The average chap doesn't want to be told how to vote."

Allowing for a necessary change to gender inclusive language, I believe that is still true.
At least, I hope it is still true.

Why annoy the celebrities by voting for the existing flag?

Because as an emblem, it was present at all the important times, like when the Treaty was signed, when women demanded the vote, through two world wars and so forth.

Times of tension, times when people put aside personal interest for the sake of something bigger.

Immigrants who have come to us from Moslem, Buddhist and Communist countries seem to grasp the value of this better than many a native-born Kiwi.

After seeing the opposite applied elsewhere, many of these dear folk have voted with their feet concerning which flag they prefer to live under.

The Cross of St George recalls a Syrian Christian, actually a Roman soldier, who lived from about AD 275-300.

George, a hero of the early church, was put to death for refusing to recant his faith.

He could have take the easy way out, but didn't.

George was following the example of Jesus Christ, who suffered death on a cross.

Jesus could have taken the easy way out, but didn't.

The cross is always about doing what is right, no matter the cost.

And that idea is exactly what a country needs to hold its people together.

Effectively, Mr Key wants a "party time emblem", which pretends that we'll all get there in the end by being nice.

But that's a myth.

The friendly "multi-national barbecue" he seems to envisage will last only till the chops and beer run out.

After that the "party" will quickly degenerate into every man for himself.

Unless, that is, there is a transcendent aspect to our thinking.

- NZ Herald

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