Two thoughtful articles were published today by two Australian Christian leaders, critiquing the pros and cons of the marriage plebiscite.
While they are addressing different points, they could be read as complementary pieces.
Mike Frost asks the question, ‘is Australia really mature enough for a plebiscite on this matter?’ His answer? No. His reason? ‘Are Australians capable of debating this matter without descending into a cruel and divisive fight about intensely personal matters like people’s religious views and their sexuality? I very much doubt it.’ Sadly, it is not difficult to find examples, many from people supporting SSM, but deplorable comments have also been made toward LGBTI Australians.
Ray Galea is also concerned with the rhetoric plebiscite; he is concerned for the well being of gay and lesbian Australians, and he is also conscious of how Christianity may be presented to the public during this debate.
This Pastor from Western Sydney offers sage advice for Christians, that we must not let this issue confuse, lessen, or hide the good news of Jesus Christ. He is also right to point out that personal testimony is a powerful tool to persuade people of Christian theology and ethics:
“Our ongoing focus should be on where the battle is really fought. Its in our homes. It’s when we get to present to our family and friends spouses who are loved and respected.”
Whatever the outcome on the plebiscite the real battle for marriage is first and last on the ground, as the world sees husbands and wives under the Lordship of Christ living out order and equality, love and respect (Eph 5:33).
The better our marriages the more powerful is our argument that God’s way is indeed the best way.”
Without taking away anything they have said, the fact remains, someone needs to decide whether the Marriage Act will change to include same-sex marriage or not. If not the people, then the Parliament, but of course many of the malicious and slanderous comments have come from the lips of our political representatives. If we can’t trust the Australian people with a plebiscite, we certainly can’t trust the Parliament.
The question then is, where can serious discussion take place on this issue?
There are of course many positive examples, although few come to public attention because calm, intelligent, and respectful conversation doesn’t send the news cameras racing to the scene.
I don’t think we should give up on highlighting attractive examples of public debate on marriage, and to encourage Australians emulate these. Sadly, there will always be some who insist on fighting dirty, and we trust that these dreadful tactics will be exposed and seen for what they are. Perhaps some of the vitriol stems from fear, certainly much of it is hate, but most disgraceful of all are those who are using hate and insult as a weapon to silence other points of view. Such methods are unChristian. Indeed, we must go further and not only set an example of gracious dissent, we must be prepared to call out that mud when ‘Christians’ are throwing it, and we should be ready to take those hits for our gay and lesbian neighbours.
Always remember the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ remains the most true and compelling example of how to engage in conversation where there is significant disagreement. He would never compromise the righteousness of God; the New Testament records many events where Jesus disagrees with the views of 1st Century Jewish society. But Jesus didn’t stop with disagreement; he went much further: he volunteered to lay down his life for the very people with whom he disagreed. His death and resurrection provides us not only with the example par excellence, but it works, it brings about forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.
It is encouraging to see more Christian leaders expressing views on this issue of marriage. I share the concerns that my brothers Mike and Ray have raised, but I do not think any of the alternatives will prove to be more reasonable and civil. However, whether there is a plebiscite, a Parliamentary vote, or no vote at all, the Gospel doesn’t change, the way we view our fellow Australians shouldn’t change, and the partnership of love and truth must remain in our mouths, hearts and lives.