When I put myself in our ultra-Christian Prime Minister's shoes (forgive me for not putting myself in his Hawaiian shirts for they clash with my Nordic hair and complexion), I can begin to understand his struggle to sincerely engage with climate change and bushfire issues.
More of my probing, atheistic analysis is just a moment but first to how bewilderingly hard it is to explain the Prime Minister's strange insensitivity-incompetence in everything to do with climate change and the tragic fires. After all, he is a politician who has slithered his way to success along a path lubricated by politics' slime and so might be expected to show at least a cunning, voter-stroking pragmatism in all he does and says. Instead, beginning with his transparent lack of urgent interest in climate change and his clodhopping holiday in idyllic Hawaii, he has been strangely, absently inept. It has been like watching someone on Australia's Got Talent, who, embarrassingly, hasn't got any talent.
And his talentlessness in climate and fire matters threatens to be his undoing. As The Canberra Times thunderously reported on in Tuesday's front-page story (''PM Slammed Over Fires''), a new ANU poll confirms that the people are embittered by the Prime Minister's strange idiocy/uselessness in these things. The ANU's Centre for Social Research and Methods found that 64.5 per cent of those surveyed believe the PM has done a "very bad" or "bad" job over the fires.
Now please join your columnist (who leads a rich fantasy life) in this fantasy.
It is question time following the Prime Minister's next address to the National Press Club. Refreshingly, none of the journalists' questions are about the usual wriggly little issues. No, the journalists, all responding to promptings by better minds than their own, are probing the Prime Minister's famous, pentecostal faith. The questions seek to find out, at last, what Christian beliefs he really, truly holds.
As James Boyce has insisted in two fine pieces in The Monthly (the second his recent A Pentecostal PM and climate change: Does a belief in the End Times inform Scott Morrison's response to the bushfire crisis?), given what Pentecostalists believe (the probing Boyce catalogues the beliefs) those beliefs may have great ramifications for what this Prime Minister thinks and does. Boyce urges that in this Morrison instance, journalists need to ditch the convention that it is impolite to ask politicians questions about their faiths.
As a thinking atheist it had already struck my pre-Boyceian mind that if I were the kind of intense, Bible-gnawing Christian that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is, I might be a bit of a shoulder-shrugger about such things. As Boyce puts it, "The broad paradigm that God is in ultimate control of what happens on Earth surely contributes to Pentecostal indifference about climate change."
I have been a Christian and know that for intense Christians one of the most impressive things about God is His uncanny attention to detail. In Matthew's gospel we learn from a usually quite reliable source (Jesus himself) that God knows every hair on all of our heads. And in infants' school when Ian, 5, believed in the Christian things Scott Morrison, 51, somehow still believes in today we used to trill a sweet little hymn that marvelled at how "He [God] paints the [every] wayside flower/He lights the [every] evening star".
So He, God, causes, sees and attends to everything, surely leaving Morrisonian sorts of believers to wonder what, really, is left for us mere mortals to do other than to marvel and perhaps to, at most, offer the Almighty the occasional prayerful suggestion.
But James Boyce's analysis of Morrison's possible-probable Pentecostal ideas is more sophisticated and more granular than mine.
Boyce fancies that "the [most] important reason for Pentecostals' distinctive disinterest in climate change is likely to be their equally distinctive interest in the End Times [Christ's Second Coming] for Pentecostals actively look forward to Christ's imminent return".
In my National Press Club fantasy (in which I play a cameo part myself, asking the PM why, given Jesus' clear command in Matthew 25 that believers must visit those in prison, he, Morrison has never been to see our Julian Assange in London's grim Belmarsh gaol) the journalists' questions all have a probing, investigative, Joyceian edge to them.
One journalist (in my fantasy it is the ABC's admirable Laura Tingle, one of the press gallery's few grown-ups) asks, quoting Joyce, "Prime Minister is your indifference to doing anything about climate change due to your Pentecostal certainty about Christ's imminent return, meaning that the fate of human beings and the future of creation will not be determined by the burning of fossil fuels but by Christ when he remakes Heaven and Earth?"
The Prime Minister flinches, and for a split second is torn between instinctively telling his umpteenth politically pragmatic lie and instead saying what he truly believes in his Christian heart. Then he opens his lips, and ...