Harmony Day

The national diary appears to be heading on a collision course with the Gregorian calendar, as we squeeze more and more special days into the week. It’s like every other day we are being encouraged to wear a ribbon or a coloured item of clothing, to hashtag a slogan and make another speech.

This Wednesday is Harmony Day, not that I would have known except that I read about it in last week’s school newsletter. What is Harmony Day, you ask? According to the official website,

“Our diversity makes Australia a great place to live. Harmony Day is a celebration of our cultural diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home.

Held every year on 21 March. The Day coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The message of Harmony Day is ‘everyone belongs’, the Day aims to engage people to participate in their community, respect cultural and religious diversity and foster sense of belonging for everyone.

Since 1999, more than 70,000 Harmony Day events have been held in childcare centres, schools, community groups, churches, businesses and federal, state and local government agencies across Australia.”

As a way of celebrating Harmony Day, people are encouraged to wear the colour orange. Leaving aside the fact that orange also represents a fruit, a cleaning detergent, one of the world’s most exclusive fashion labels, Hermes, and most ironic of all, a sectarian Protestant movement in Northern Ireland…other than these orange icons, apparently the colour “traditionally…signifies social communication and meaningful conversations.” Clearly someone forget to pass on that message to Northern Ireland!



It’s refreshing to find a ‘day’ that I can happily support, and where I don’t need to sit down and have one of those “this is why we don’t celebrate xyz” conversations with my children.  Perhaps there is some deeper and not so positive agenda behind Harmony Day, but from what I know, it sounds like Wednesday should be orange day (that is, if I had anything orange to wear!).

The cultural experiences in Australia are not the norm across the world. There are few places on earth that have witnessed more positive cultural assimilation and multi-ethnic embracement.Our children’s school has students from many different countries and ethnic backgrounds, and our surrounding suburbs are home to thousands of migrants from all over the world.

This is not to say that racism is only an historical problem in Australia, its ugliness remains with us in 2018, and is probably more prevalent than many would like to admit. Racism is abhorrent. To undermine or deny a person’s humanity and dignity because of their skin colour or language is beyond reprehensible. I do think though that some societal discord is less about racism and is more about the fear of the unknown and the sense of losing cultural norms and habits; the political correctness police can be too quick to judge. It is also important that we can freely note and criticise another culture’s moral sins and shortcomings, so long as we understand the many transgressions marking our own society today.

Harmony Day is a day that I can say to my children, “this is worthwhile celebrating”. It not only reflects an Australian value that is good, it also intimates a significance beyond a nation’s identity.

In 2018, at Mentone Baptist we are preaching through the book of Acts. In this account of Christianity’s growth in the First Century AD, one of the book’s chief concerns is to demonstrate that not only did the Gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate different cultures and people groups, this new born unifying agent was of Divine purpose. Following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, he commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. God is concerned for the nations, and his good news message is for people from all nations and races and places.

Throughout Acts we read about thousands of Jewish people become followers of Jesus Christ, and also of Samaritans, an Ethiopian, Greeks and Romans, and many others throughout the world. The Gospel not only found home across ethnicities and languages, but it cut across cultural barriers among rich and poor, men and women, leaders and servants, all now worshiping God together and living out of love for each other. The Gospel call is higher than toleration, it even exceeds the idea of friendship; the Gospel unites otherwise disparate people together in Christ, and creates relationships as close as family. 2,000 years on, this story is continuing, even in Australia.

This year Harmony Day falls one week before another public celebratory day, Good Friday. Good Friday is a day when Christians remember the extent of God’s love for the world,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

That day Jesus didn’t wear the colour orange, his accusers dressed him in a purple robe and imbedded a crown of thorns into his head. He carried a wooden cross to a place called Golgotha, where nails were driven through his hands and feet, and where he was hung  until death. This was the cost Jesus bore so that God might reconcile the nations to himself.

Good Friday creates Churches and communities of such depth and peace and love that it makes the United Nations’ best attempts seem rickety and faint. At Mentone Baptist we don’t celebrate Harmony Day, because we are living it every day; perhaps not perfectly but certainly with genuine joy and gratitude. Like thousands of Churches all over the country, we are a big family made up of many different nationalities and cultures: from Uganda and the United Kingdom, to Russia and Malaysia, from Brazil and the USA, to China, India and the Middle East.

Federal Court Judge judges marriage

In the space of a few short years, we have created a new narrative in Australia, and it is one that our culture by in large assumes to be true and indisputable: do not judge another person’s sexuality.

When I took my 2 boys to the cinema last week to watch ‘Black Panther’, a new film was previewed, ’Love, Simon’, a story of a teenager who discovers he’s gay and falls in love with a classmate. Following this was Apple’s new advertisement celebrating same sex marriage. The new morality is clear and insistent,

“what you feel is who you are”.

“Don’t change. You cannot change. It is determined from birth.”

The weakness with this logic is that some people do change, as a Federal Court Judge has recently determined. A woman who entered Australia on a student visa, married a Lebanese man who is living here on a protection visa.

From the report in the Sydney Morning Herald,

“According to the AAT, the woman’s husband had been granted a protection visa on the basis of his homosexuality and feared persecution in Lebanon.

The tribunal wrote to the woman in January last year and said it was “difficult to see how the sponsor can have a commitment to his marriage to you when he has not told you about his claimed homosexuality”.

The woman’s lawyers wrote to the tribunal and said it was “not irrational or unreasonable for a former homosexual man to undergo a radical change in his sexual desires and now be fully in love and dedicated to his wife and family”.

The woman’s lawyers urged the AAT to consider the “cogent evidence” before it pointing to a genuine relationship, including the fact that the couple had a baby daughter.

But the tribunal found the couple were not credible witnesses. It said “the gay rights movement has, for decades, fought for the acceptance of homosexuality as a sexual orientation from birth, not something that … is a matter of choice or will or accident”.

The tribunal said it did not accept “the generalised argument that it is not unknown for a previously heterosexual man who has been married and has children, to enter into a homosexual relationship”.

“Without wishing to continue to generalise, it is most likely that such homosexual men have always been homosexual and have married and had children to comply with what were considered societal norms,” the AAT said.

The tribunal said it did not “disagree that it may well be the case that some heterosexual men have homosexual desires, or vice versa, or that some people are genuinely bisexual” but this was not what the husband had claimed.”

Maybe this marriage is legitimate and maybe it’s not; I don’t know the hearts of this couple,  but I certainly wish them the very best in their marriage. It is interesting though, the one thing we have been told incessantly over the past year is that we cannot deny other peoples love, and to deny them marriage is phobic. Indeed, who are we to even define love for them? And yet, here is a case of a marriage that doesn’t fall into line with the new morality’s code of ethics, and because of that it must be bogus. Really?



Federal Court Justice Jayne Jagot was correct to dispute the Tribunal’s conclusions about sexual orientation. The notion that a person’s homosexuality is determined at birth has no scientific support and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that demonstrated that some people do change. It is quite possible that there are genetic and biological factors which influence a person’s sexual orientation, and that there are also environmental and social reasons. The fact remains, some people do experience change in their sexual orientation.

This is one of the presenting dangers with the transgender issue. Young children are being taught in our schools that if they feel as though they identify with a particular gender they must be that gender and should now start transitioning into that gender. But as the research shows, the overwhelming majority of children who experience some form a gender dysphoria will grow out of it by the time they are adults.

It would be wrong and pastorally irresponsible to ever say to someone that they can or must change their sexual orientation. No doubt there are horrific stories about well-meaning people who have inflicted all kinds of mental scarring on people because they’ve tried to force a change. This is of course, precisely the kind of conversion therapy that is now being practised in Australia, and even within our schools, with impressionable children being led down paths that will create all manner of trauma for them in the future.

It is notable that a Federal Court Judge has exposed a popular narrative, although it’s unlikely to make any serious dent in the public conversation, because facts and non conformist stories are often not taken seriously. While many Australians who identify as LGBTIQ will hold onto that identity throughout their lives, others won’t. Some people do change, and others again will continue to struggle with their gender identity or sexual inclinations, but are convinced that they should live within the sexual framework outlined in the Bible. Sadly, such diversity of personal stories rarely reach our televisions, films, and education curriculum, because they don’t fit into the narrow narrative of the new Australian myth.

There is another story worth hearing, a better story, a more certain and freeing story. It brings clarity to a culture that is becoming increasingly confused, and brings hope to people who discover that the sexual revolution doesn’t deliver on its promises. The Christian message isn’t, ‘be straight and get married’, it is far greater and extends far deeper.

I am reminded of Rosaria Butterfield’s testimony,

“when I came to Christ, I experienced what nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” At the time of my conversion, my lesbian identity and feelings did not vanish. As my union with Christ grew, the sanctification that it birthed put a wedge between my old self and my new one. In time, this contradiction exploded, and I was able to claim identity in Christ alone.”

While Butterfield’s sexual orientation did change and she is now married with children, this is not the experience of everyone who has same sex attraction. Indeed, there are many Christian men and women who remain single, same sex attracted, and living fulfilled and celibate lives. This can only mean that there is something more integral and sustaining and satisfying which is found in an identity that becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

Charlotte Elliot says it so well. Her hymn, ‘Just as I am”, was made famous by Billy Graham. Even two centuries after she penned these words, they tell us of a wonderful story that can become our story,

Just as I am – and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,

To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,

-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – though toss’d about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,

-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,

-O Lamb of God, I come!