Australians have been told again and again that the marriage debate is only about love and equality for marriage. Fairfax columnist, Aubrey Perry, has today argued that “it’s about much more”. Perry admits that changing the Marriage Act is about removing all influence of Judeo-Christianity in Australian political and public life:
“This survey offers us a conscious opportunity to make a firm stand in support of a secular government and to reject discrimination or favouritism based on religion. It’s our opportunity to say that religion has no part in the shaping of our laws. A vote against same-sex marriage is a vote for religious bias and discrimination in our legislation, our public schools, our healthcare, and ultimately, in the foundation of our social structure.”
Inadvertently, Aubrey Perry has just torn a sizeable hole in the ‘yes’ campaign for same-sex. Readers who share her fears about Christianity will no doubt be elated, but other Australians are left wondering, so this whole debate is really about religion? And it is about education, politics, and even abortion? As though mediating Roz Ward, who has insisted that she authored the Safe Schools curriculum to program children toward socialism, Perry presents marriage as the front line fight against Christianity in this country.
Unfortunately though, Perry’s presentation of Christianity often looks more like a cartoon than it does authentic Christianity, and in doing so she makes a series of factual errors.
For example, contra Perry, Christianity cannot be defined as right wing politics. There are many Christians who feel comfortable across the political spectrum. Is Perry whitewashing the Christian convictions of members of the Australian Labor Party? Christian theism is neither defined by left or right politics but by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news from God cannot be squeezed into the small and narrow reaches of any political party, for it counters all such human categories and gives us a greater and more stunning alternative.
Also, in a fantastic revision of history, Perry alleges that, “Religious intolerance has kept the possibility of same-sex marriage an impossibility for decades”. Well, no. Until recent years no one, anywhere, in the world would have believed marriage was anything other than between a man and a woman. It didn’t matter whether one believed in God or not, same sex marriage was a non starter. It remains the case today, that many religious and non religious people simply don’t believe that same sex marriage is logical or good for society.
Finally, it needs pointing out that true secularism is not the absence of religious thought, but the freedom to speak regardless of ones religious affiliation, or lack thereof. Perry’s argument for a secular state is not true secularism, it’s imposed atheism. It is anti-pluralism. If the only permitted discourse is void of language deferring to God and religion, then what we will have is exclusive and intolerant atheism.
Anti-religious world views have had a shot at taking charge of nations, and they have produced for the world Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and North Korea. I’m fairly sure that this is not the kind of country most Australians are wanting to become.
The reality is, it is a Judeo-Christian framework that enshrined into law how no single religion would control public policy, but instead the people should persuade and argue their case. Is this so bad? According to Aubrey Perry it is worse than bad, and we must use the marriage survey as a demonstration that we will no longer tolerate religious views in the public square.
Perry has done Australians a great service though, in being honest enough to show Australians that same sex marriage is not really about marriage, but is about removing the religious and social foundations that have given this country the freedoms, prosperity, and security that we today enjoy. I hope Australians will read her article and consider their decision in light of these confessions.
7 thoughts on “Yes, SSM is about more than just marriage”
Perry is right. We need to allow the state to act in the interests of a secular society, not just a religious one. The church has as much to lose in pursuing its message decrying the loss of religious freedom as it does in allowing SSM law to pass. By standing in the way of the religious and moral liberties of those in society that don’t match a traditional Christian view we say that it is okay for one group to marginalise and oppress another. What happens when the tables turn as they are? Will society consider allowing Christians the freedom of speech, assembly and practice? Or will they say, “your practices don’t align with our values, you don’t get equal rights to us”? A YES vote is a vote for religious freedom. A YES vote defends the separation of church and state.
You have fallen for the same historical & philosophical mistake that Perry has, and that is to drive an absolute wedge between religion and secularism. Read a political history of Australia and you’ll find that the view of secularism that I’ve summarised accurately reflects true secularism.
“A yes vote is a vote for religious freedom?” I can only assume that you didn’t read Perry’s article because it is saying pretty much the exact opposite.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Perry is honest enough publish this viewpoint, but it’s almost entirely inaccurate, and is designed to oust Christian belief from the public square.
Should Perry & co get their way, it will take away religious freedoms, but that does not mean that the Gospel will suffer and the cause of Christ diminish for God can advance his cause in our social and political context.
I’m going to throw around a few random comments, and then try to tie it together.
First comment: “Judeo-Christianity” is not a thing, and to the extent that it is a thing, it’s younger than Australia. Sure, Christianity started off as a sect within Judaism, but that didn’t last long. For the last thousand years, Christians in Europe have considered Jews as something akin to second-class citizens. In England, things changed under Cromwell, but for the most part, anti-semitism is still with us.
I’m not aware of any mainstream Jewish organisation in Australia which has expressed an opinion on the current marriage debate, except to emphasise the right of all religious organisations and officials to decide which marriages they will solemnise and which they will not. It would greatly surprise me if they did. If you know anything about Judaism, you know that they do not seek to impose Judaic laws on Gentiles. And if you know anything about Christianity, you know that the feeling is mutual; see Acts 15 for details.
Perry did not bring Judaism into this. We Christians should not bring Judaism into this either, without their permission.
Second comment: In case it isn’t obvious, Christianity in Australia is undergoing a bit of a change at the moment. Traditional Christianity is being edged out in public discourse, replaced by a more political fundamentalist variety mostly influenced by American politics of the late 1970s and 1980s. This can be best illustrated by seeing what happened to ACCESS Minstries; mainstream churches were slowly and deliberately edged out. This takeover by modern fundamentalist denominations and groups was the main trigger that ended SRI in Victoria.
Even if you think that SRI was a good idea and should have stayed, it was untenable after this.
This non-traditional form of Christianity is exemplified by the ACL, which seeks to impose dominionist and reconstructionist theology on Australia. I know they deny it, but we all know it’s true.
My observation is that it’s this kind of Christianity that Perry is referring to, because this is the only kind of Christianity which is visible in public debate.
It may be a minority position among Christians, but it is not a cartoon and it is not a strawman. They are the ones who have spoken up in this debate, so they are the ones that the atheist part of the “yes” side are responding to. And it makes a certain amount of sense: Mainstream churches would not consider wasting money on this kind of a political campaign when there are homeless to house and hungry to feed.
It’s tempting to respond with #NotAllChristians, but that would be a mistake. Aubrey Perry does not needs to be told this, Lyle Shelton does.
This is not a battle of Christianity versus the world. The anti-freedom, anti-pluralistic Christianity represented by the ACL, Family First, and its fellow travellers is not the traditional Christianity which helped give Australia the free, pluralistic society that we enjoy. It’s the novel, sex-obsessed, historically revisionist Christianity-lite populated by cynical politicians rather than thoughtful theologians, who are willing to break the ultimate Protestant taboo and rewrite the Bible if it suits their political agenda.
You are right that Christian theism is not defined by left-vs-right politics. The fact that most of the mainstream churches (e.g. Anglican and Uniting Churches) have not taken a consistent position on this plebiscite/survey speaks to this. But the shallow Christianity-lite of the ACL very much is motivated by left-vs-right politics. And those behind the plebiscite/survey itself are undeniably motivated by left-vs-right politics.
If nothing else, we should vote against that.
Perry is not the one who drove the wedge between religion and secularism. We Christians allowed it to happen by not keeping our right wing in check. I know, we didn’t see it coming, but it’s here now, and it’s our problem. And, by the way, the stakes are bigger than most of us think. Australia has already been infected, even if only in a small-but-loud way, by the Rushdoony/Robertson/Falwell kind of Christianity. The next wave of invasion may be the alt-Christianity of the even-farther-right.
I believe that we’re better than this.
Thanks for your thoughts. For future reference, I generally don’t publish comments where people don’t offer their name.
Just a couple of thoughts in return
1. Judeo-Christian is a standard way of describing the worldview that underpins so much of Australia’s (and other Western nations) philosophic foundations. It’s commonly used by historians, philosophers, and many more.
Of interest, I spoke with a well known Jewish Rabbi and academic only 2 weeks ago, who most heartedly affirmed the classical view of marriage. Are Jewish groups making public statements? I don’t know.
2. The wedge you drive between ‘traditional Christianity’ and groups such as ACCESS Ministries and ACL, whom you describe as ‘fundamentalist’, as I think odd. May I ask what Christian tradition you are part of and what Church you attend? The reason for asking is because those two groups are very much in line with mainstream and traditional Christian ethics. Whether their public promotion is always helpful is another question, but there is no doubt that their values are generally supported by normal Bible believing Churches in this country. Their views on marriage, on the sex trade, abortion, refugees, euthanasia, children have opportunity to learn about Jesus, are pretty stock standard. In fact, if one were to follow your snapshot conception of left/right poles, you should be putting ACL in the left camp given their position of refugees!
3. Almost every major Christian denomination have made a public stand on the upcoming surgery and in doing so they have affirmed the classical understanding of marriage. That individual churches may not subscribe to their denomination’s position is a different matter, and they probably should leave if they can’t do so.
4. “We Christians allowed it to happen by not keeping our right wing in check”? Again I see a problem with how you’ve defined various Christian groups. The basic issue is when Christians abandon the Bible because it doesn’t agree with the idols that they wish to chase after (whatever their political/social proclivities). Certainly the bigger problem on the SSM issue is not Christians affirming the Biblical viewpoint, but those who wish to revise the Bible’s teaching in order to make it fit with popular culture.
5. Alt-right-Christian? There is no such thing as alt-right-Christian; that’s just the stupid creation of hard-nosed socialists who hate Christianity. There is of course such a thing as the alt-right, but it is no friend of or partner of Christianity. Most people understand that KK & like groups have nothing to do with Christianity
Thanks for your response.
Of interest, I spoke with a well known Jewish Rabbi and academic only 2 weeks ago, who most heartedly affirmed the classical view of marriage.
Marriage in the classical world is a whole topic on its own! But I don’t think we need to go there, except I suppose to point out that early Christianity wasn’t exactly pro-marriage. Paul, as we know, wasn’t a fan, seeing it as a last resort.
May I ask, was he talking about what the civil law should be? Because remember that’s what this is all about.
May I ask what Christian tradition you are part of and what Church you attend?
It probably won’t surprise you to learn Uniting Church at the moment, but I have a pretty varied background including Lutheranism and non-Sydney Anglicanism.
I was going to ask you about your tradition, but used the term “Bible believing”, which almost answers the question. It means you’re not Roman Catholic, not Anglican, not Uniting Church, not Salvation Army, not Quaker, not Orthodox… not one of the larger traditions.
I say this not because I think that’s a bad thing; Christianity is a very broad thing. I’m merely pointing out that unless we’re Catholic (which, it seems, neither of us are) we aren’t part of the majority of Christianity worldwide or in Australia.
Prior to the late 1970s, the vast majority of Christian thinkers in the Protestant tradition were in favour of abortion if it upheld higher principles, such as the health of the mother. (The Roman Catholic tradition was always against it, of course.) Something changed since then, and while it’s not necessarily a bad change by itself, it’s a change that signals something bad, that Australian Christianity is being affected by something that is far from traditional, far from Biblical, and far from Christian.
The ACL agrees with the majority of Christians in Australia on many topics. I would add problem gambling to the list. However, they have also adopted many of the American political wedge issues that arose in post-Watergate, post-segregation conservative politics, and that is a problem. The rise of “Bible as a self-help book” churches is similarly concerning.
I noted in one of the links above that the politicised American religious right is not above changing the very text of the Bible if it doesn’t agree with them politically. If that doesn’t make us angry, nothing will.
And just in case I wasn’t clear about this, it’s not the “no” side that concerns me. And, indeed, the number of denominations who are against civil same-sex marriage does not surprise me in the slightest.
It’s the very existence of the plebiscite/non-scientific survey itself and the number of denominations which seem to be okay with it. This surprises me a lot.
Imagine what good $122 million could do! Spending it on an entirely partisan exercise so that politicians can avoid doing their one job is close to the most wasteful thing I can think of. Jesus would not approve.
I am not up with all this intelligentsia neither am I religious however my vote will be a big NO.
Dogma what is it ?
‘Dogma’ is a system of obfuscations, propaganda and related ideology, which elites present as “truth”, with the aim to maintain social control, and to expand their own hold on power. Other examples of current operating dogma include schemes of socialization that aim to convince people that “capitalism promotes freedom and democracy”, that “privatization is a good thing”, and that “economic protectionism is a bad thing”.
A notable example of dogma, in the context of the so-called ‘War on Terrorism’, is that “the U.S. and its coalition partners are waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan not subtantively for oil, but to promote human rights;” meanwhile well-documented human destruction, suffering and oppression worsen.
Dogma what is it ?
“Dogma” is a Greek word which refers to a professional opinion, such as a legal or medical opinion. That’s also the way that it’s used in Christian theology.
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