' />

Tapu Misa writes that the agnostic PM's support is at risk as the Budget makes Government priorities crystal clear.

Some Christians I know who voted for National in the last election because they liked the look of John Key and disliked Helen Clark and her godless gay-loving feminist anti-smacking family-unfriendly Labour Party have changed their minds.

A few were under the impression that Key was a believer. He isn't (unless he's undergone a recent conversion), but it was an easy mistake to make given that Key was said to attend church regularly, had been endorsed by a couple of popular Christians (Michael Jones and Va'aiga Tuigamala), and was hard to pin down on the subject.

For example, he'd told one journalist in 2006: "If you're asking me if I'm religious it depends how you define religion. I look at religion as doing the right thing ... I go to church a lot with the kids, but I wouldn't describe it as something that I ... I'm not a heavy believer; my mother was Jewish which technically makes me Jewish ... I probably see it in a slightly more relaxed way."

Advertisement

Which is a very roundabout way of saying Key is an agnostic.

But it's easy to see why he was the darling of conservative Christians. Unlike Don Brash, who'd left two broken families in his wake, and Helen Clark who, despite her own solid marriage, was seen to stand for a raft of supposedly anti-family social policies, including the legalisation of prostitution, civil unions and Sue Bradford's child discipline law, Key was seen as the embodiment of family values: he was a devoted husband and father who had voted against the civil union bill.

And even if he wasn't a Christian, as National Party member and Catholic Terry Dunleavy told the Sunday Star-Times in 2007, "I believe John Key in his life and his values reflects much more openly and strongly the Christian values that I hold. He's still married to the same woman. There's no question about his morality or his dedication to family life."

But is the love affair over? Weeks after getting so much love at Christian music festival Parachute this year, Key was pictured at the Big Gay Out, arm in arm with a semi-naked (male) organiser, talking of the possible return of an annual gay and lesbian mardi gras many thought they'd seen the last of 10 years ago when the debt-ridden Hero parade was cancelled. It felt like betrayal for some.

The Christian family is a very broad church, and I've never understood the preoccupation with homosexuality.

Last month, the Young Conservatives of America urged other conservatives to stop using the word "gay", which they described as "a left-wing socio-political construct designed to create grounds for fundamental rights [based on] whimsical capricious desires". They favoured a return to words like "sodomy".

This was ironic, as Jay Michaelson pointed out in the Huffington Post, "because 'sodomy' in the Bible has nothing to do with homosexuality. It wasn't until the Medieval period that the word was even invented - as a legal classification for sins of Catholic priests - and in the Bible itself, the sin of Sodom has to do with inhospitality and greed, not sex".

He argued that homosexual rape was the means, not the essence of Sodom's wickedness, which as the prophet Ezekiel declared (16:49) was actually "pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness ... neither did [Sodom] strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

That seems an apt commentary of our times. The real Sodomites are the increasingly distant and indifferent rich.

Jesus focused on poverty and justice and helping "the least of these". Yet many Christians seem inclined to see morality in narrow terms. But what is more destructive to family values - the lack of a living wage, or the legalisation of same-sex marriages?

American religious leaders fasted in protest this year at proposed Budget cuts in the United States.

Pointing to the immorality of a Budget that would slash spending on programmes for the poor while increasing military spending and adding unnecessary billions to the deficit by extending Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 per cent of Americans, they argued that budgets weren't just about numbers but moral statements reflecting a nation's values.

Budgets "reveal our priorities, who and what is important, and who and what are not", said the Rev Jim Wallis, one of the fast's organisers.

It's not a question of whether we should reduce deficits, but how we reduce them that matters. "It's about choices."

Indeed - and thanks to the Budget the choices and priorities of our own Government are crystal clear. Borrowing so the top income earners in the country continue to get generous tax cuts they don't need. Chipping into Working for Families assistance for households earning as little as $35,000 a year. Tinkering with KiwiSaver, despite the need to encourage more saving.

Expecting a billion dollars worth of unspecified cuts in the public sector over the next four years. And flogging off parts of strategic assets, the money from which has already been "banked".

Is this what we want? Come November, the choice will be ours.

Tapu.Misa@gmail.com