We are living in an age of outrage. No matter where we find ourselves on the political spectrum and no matter where we land on a myriad of moral issues, navigating anger and abuse is becoming normalised. This indictment on our society isn’t a sign of progress but an alarm signalling that we have deep-rooted problems. The issue isn’t just that people disagree on important matters, and do so strongly, but that people feel unable to disagree for fear of retribution.
Last weekend Melbourne witnessed scenes that shocked us. Neo Nazis standing our the steps of the Victorian Parliament House, saluting their vile gestures and shouting obscenities. As aghast as Melbournians were by this sight, there were a multiplicity of reactions and stances made around the broader events on that Saturday in Melbourne city. The organised women’s protest has since gone to other Australian and New Zealand cities, this time without interfering fascists but with even more vitriol and violence conducted by counter protests
Despite the insistence of some of our political leaders and media personalities, it is possible to believe several things are true all at once. Indeed, I’d argue that it’s sensible and necessary. For example, all of the following are possible:
- One may not support the women’s march (for a variety of reasons) and yet support concerns raised by women attending the march.
- One opposes neoNazism with every fibre in one’s body.
- One disagrees with the Premier and Opposition Leader who wrongfully (and slanderously) labelled the women protesting with Nazism (the Nazis were the group of men who hijacked Spring Street from the women protesting).
- One opposes popular gender theories on scientific, moral, and theological grounds
- One wants good for Victorians who don’t see themselves comfortable in their biological bodies.
I think very few people want our city of Melbourne marred with violence and ugly protests. We’ve seen them in the past and sadly such events will appear again in our streets; it’s human nature. However, the one sight that filled the news and left us groaning was the group of around 20 men parading outside Parliament House in balaclavas, with Nazi salutes and shouting unrepeatable things at other protesters. Why the Government allowed this group to protest at all, and at the same time and location where two other (opposing) protests were taking place, boggles the mind.
I understand that the original plan was for a women’s protest on the steps of Parliament House. A rally was organised in support of women’s rights, and this then met with a counter protest in support of trans activism. The already tense scene was then crashed by what was a crude gang of thugs, who were either pretending to be or actually representing Nazism.
My understanding is that the women’s protest was alerting people to the fact that many women are feeling increasingly marginalised and under threat by a new ideology that is sweeping the Western world. A hundred years of progress for women seems to be taking a sharp decline, leaving many women feeling vulnerable and maligned.
Can one imagine 10 years ago, women protesting in our cities against the mistreatment of women, only for counter-protests to shame them and for political leaders to condemn them? It is quite staggering. The writing has been on the wall for some years, however. The sexual revolution has been underway for 70 years and it continues to follow its natural course of undermining sex and gender and removing anything that gets in the way of self-actualisation. A movement that achieved some good is bearing much fruit that is harming women. In that sense, the latest chapter of the sexual revolution has feminist roots. And so we have reached the point where it’s near impossible to answer the question, ‘what is a man and what is a woman?’ Indeed, even asking the question is often deemed offensive and will have you hauled before the HR department at work.
Professor Richard Dawkins believes that what is a man and what is a woman are basic and incontrovertible facts. In a recent interview with Piers Morgan the world-renowned microbiologist said,
“As a biologist, there are two sexes and that’s all there is to it.”
“Sex really is binary”.
Richard Dawkins is able to get away with defending this brand new ‘heresy’, but most women (and men) cannot. As Premier Daniel Andrews has demonstrated on numerous occasions, if you transgress the latest gendered religion, he will call you the meanest and worst names he can think of and get away with in public.
It’s not only issues of sex and gender, but there is a gamut of important social issues today where finding rigorous discussion and respectful discourse near impossible to find. We are living in a polarised world and fault lines are appearing everywhere. If you want to be on the ‘right side of history’ (which is code for keeping your job and reputation), without pausing one has to employ the strongest rebuke at social dissenter, and failure to do so may cause us to doubt your moral credentials.
It’s becoming the norm for all kinds of community and business groups to expect total affirmation and support, and failure to do so means one thing: you are a hate-filled and anti-everything nazi loving awful human being! Of course, that may be the case, but most likely, the labels are untrue. But what is truth? Mud sticks.
Slinging mud at people you disagree with and don’t like is easy. Anyone can do that. And sadly, sometimes that mud stains, stinks, and stays.
The Bible has some fairly strong things to say about our words, For example, Proverbs 10:18 says,
“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.”
Psalms 15 says,
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord”
Using words liberally and losing isn’t something God treats lightly. The Apostle Paul cautions against responding to verbal insults with more of the same kind,
“when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment” (1 Corthinians 4:13).
Paul was a regular target for insult and assault. He didn’t enjoy the mischaracterisation that he regularly experienced, and he fought hard to not respond in kind. Rather, it caused him to lean more heavily on God and to respond as the Lord Jesus responded to his critics and crucifiers.
The right to protest is engrained in Western liberalism and it is an important freedom, albeit one that I choose not to exercise (with one exception many years ago). I personally think there are better ways to communicate concerns but I also recognise there can be power and persuasion through the force of numbers. Then again, pro-life marches in Australia often outnumber other protests and yet they rarely make the news.
Leaving aside the question of whether protests are helpful or not, last weekend’s protests and the response since are yet another example of how our culture has turned into the ouroboros. We are chasing our own tail and trying to bite it off! We are slowly destroying ourselves as we deny essential realities about the world and about ourselves. And we have lost the ability to communicate hard issues with grace, gentleness, and respect. It’s as though some bright spark read Romans 1:18-32 and thought to himself/herself, what a brilliant pathway to progress! But this isn’t progress, it is a dangerous game of power and bullying and it is hurting real people who are struggling with real issues.
Jesus once asked a group of intellectuals, “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female…”
Can you imagine Jesus standing in Melbourne City and saying these words today? He was willing to say the unpopular thing. Jesus was also known for his great compassion. He didn’t renege on truth or on grace.
Above all, our city of Melbourne needs to relearn how to listen to the One who came from heaven and who was crucified out of love for us. But giving up hubris and putting on humility isn’t an easy path to take, but it is a necessary one if we have any chance of finding redemption. Shouting and demeaning is easy. Listening, speaking well and showing grace is hard. Until such time that we recover these Christian graces, I suspect we are going to face more trying times ahead.
And so for my final plea, Christians of Melbourne, don’t buy into the rage. Resist it with all the strength God gives and offer a better pattern. Perhaps no one will listen for now. But eventually, a day may come when the road of rage ends its course and people no longer know where to turn. So be that presence where people can turn. But they probably won’t turn up to our churches or ask those deep questions of us if we’ve already signed up to angry and spiteful mobs that are controlling our public discourse today.