And gladly teche (motto of Macquarie University)
In the latest case in a growing line of stories, Dr Steve Chavura, a Senior Research Associate at Macquarie University, has been the subject of calls for his dismissal from the university.
What is Dr Chavura’s sin? Dr Chavura is on the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, a Christian organisation which serves to foster critical thinking and robust Christian contributions to public policy.
Mr Michael Barnett, who is questioning the university’s integrity by employing Dr Chavura, admitted in an interview that he did not know whether Dr Chavura (or even the Lachlan Macquarie Institute) had ever ‘issued any anti-gay material’. Apparently it is suffice that a university should employ an individual who belongs to a Christian organisation.
It should be noted that Dr Chavura is not the first LMI board member to receive attention in recent days, indeed these stories a fast becoming common place around the country.
- The Australian Labor Party currently prohibits any person (Christian or otherwise), to stand for preselection should they hold to the classic definition of marriage.
- An Australian business that associates with a Christian organisation will not only suffer a tirade of abuse, but have other businesses pull their product off their shelf in protest. In the mean time, Australian businesses that associate with the case for gay marriage are praised.
- Federal Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, has indicated that Labor is considering expanding section 18C, to include banning speech that same-sex marriage advocates find offensive.
According to The Australian editor, Chris Merritt,
“Under Labor’s proposal, advocates of same-sex marriage would be empowered, for example, to take legal action under 18C-style laws if they felt offended or insulted by those who publicly defended the traditional definition of marriage. Those at risk would include priests, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders who publicly oppose same-sex marriage.”
I wonder if Labor are prepared to provide similar protections for those who believe in the classical definition of marriage?
The issue at hand is same-sex marriage, but as Michael Barnett has elsewhere explained, the agenda is not limited to same-sex marriage, but includes a whole range of matters pertaining to sexual ethics and expression. It is important for us to understand that it doesn’t matter if a person’s work has no bearing on the ethics of marriage, or if they have never publicly stated a position on marriage, the sin is one of association.
For too long we have lived in the haze of relativism, and have wrongly trust this murkiness to protect us, but truer and deeper cultural realities have become clearer. In his excellent volume, Political Church: The local Church as embassy of Christ’s rule, Jonathan Leeman writes, ‘secular liberalism isn’t neutral, it steps into the public space with a ‘covert religion’, perhaps as liberal authoritarianism…the public realm is nothing less than the battle ground of gods, each vying to push the levers of power in its favour’.
Accordingly, Michael Barnett has helpfully signalled the sentiment of our age when he says, “No one is stopping him going to church, being a member of a faith,” he said. “Being a member of a board is not religion.” Granted, Michael is but one voice, but it is not a lone voice, the example of Coopers Beer bears testimony to that fact.
In other words, it’s okay to be a Christian at home or in Church, but not at work and in public. Of course, this call will result in potential outcomes for Christians in this country, none are enviable:
- Cultural capitulation, with Christians abandoning Christian teachings in order to keep their jobs and reputations.
- Hypocrisy, Christians believing one thing in private and another in public.
- Gospel fidelity, being prepared to suffer loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.
Free speech (as popularly conceived) is not only a thing of the past, but so is philosophical pluralism. The ‘God is dead’ movement has skilfully used classical liberalism to stamp out God talk in the public conscience. This authoritarian secularism now finds itself in a dominant position in our culture, even though in all likelihood the majority of Australians do not subscribe to its radical theories. We are witnessing the beginning of a social purge, removing from public office and space those who do not bow before this self-defining imago sexualitatis.
Within our Australian universities are many Christian academics (and students). They are members of different Christian organisations and they attend local Bible believing Churches. Do Australian universities wish to be bereft of some our finest minds? Do our companies wish to rid our boards of some of the nation’s most creative businesspeople? I suspect the answer for most is, no. It nonetheless requires a new courage to not only say we believe in free speech, but to practice it.
Our society once taught us to tolerate those who disagree with us. Today, we are told to shut up and fall into line. The Christian ideal is so much higher and costlier: Jesus teaches us to love those who disagree with us, and to seek their good. Listen to their concerns and fears, so that we rightly understand them.
I should point out that Michael Barnett is a casual interlocutor on this blog, for which I am grateful. His comments and those of other gay advocates are helpful to me in understanding their own fears and dreams.
So what should Christians do? As Jesus once said to the Church in Thyatira, ‘hold on to what you have until I come’.