Take question 15:
Australia’s values are based on the …
a. Teachings of the Koran
b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition
Apparently ‘b’ is the correct answer if you want to pass the citizenship test. As Irfan says, the ‘Judaeo’ bit is stretching it. Judaism’s direct effect on Australian values is negligible. Only the long-ago influence of Judaism on Christianity (in the particular the Old Testament) can make any intellectual sense of this term; in reality Christianity has been the dominant faith in Australia and in Europe, from which most Australians came.
Ironically, in light of the choice against the Koran this question forces, the term ‘Judaeo-Christian’ was a 20th century effort to be more inclusive towards non-Christian religion rather than a serious description of religious or ‘values’ history.
But which Australian values are based on the ‘Judaeo-Christian tradition’? Not obviously those on offer in question 14:
4. Which of the following are Australian values?
a. Men and women are equal
b. `A fair go’
d. All of the above
If you want your Australian passport, answer ‘d’. ‘a’ may be officially correct, but if so it is a recent Australian value – and one still not fully accepted by the ‘Judaeo-Christian’ tradition from which Australian values are supposedly derived, as the on-going disputes over the ordination of women show. Indeed, modern Australian values have in part evolved against the Judaeo-Christian tradition, drawing more on the Enlightenment values that have challenged Christianity for more than two centuries. The intellectual heirs to the Enlightenment are still doing mopping up operations against Christian objections to gender equality, homosexuality, and some forms of scientific research.
And while I suppose ‘a fair go’ and ‘mateship’ could be read into some passages of the Bible, I doubt that this is where these notions/sentiments come from. Some version of ‘mateship’ is surely present in every culture, and other countries are more preoccupied with ‘fairness’ than Australia.
Not all the questions raise as many issues as these (though Irfan points out that a couple of the civics questions aren’t as straightforward as they seem). But it does show how hard it is – presuming it is not impossible – to reduce something as complex as ‘Australian values’ to multiple choice questions.