An Open Letter to LGBTI Australians about the marriage debate

Dear LGBTI Australians,

I am writing this open letter to express some thoughts in relation to the issue of same sex marriage. My intention is not to address every question—for that would require a very lengthy letter indeed—but I do wish offer a few reflections.

I want to begin by saying that I truly want you to live happy and fulfilling lives. I am sorry for the abuse and hate you have experienced from the community, even at times from Christians. 

Not for a moment will I pretend that I have always treated others with the dignity and love that I should. I am far from a perfect human being. I do however grieve the fact that so many LGBTI Australians have experienced much pain and sorrow.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, I understand that there is great diversity of opinion in our society. Even among LGBTI Australians, there is a wide range of views. Some folk wish to legalise same sex marriage simply because they believe in the institution of marriage and want the opportunity to marry. Others argue that legalising same-sex marriage is part of a broader campaign to dissolve marriage altogether along with all structures associated with a conservative and non-socialist agenda. Yet other gay couples have shared that they believe marriage should not be redefined. For example, Ben Rogers and Mark Poidevin who have been in a relationship for 15 years recently spoke out against gay marriage,

“If we make one exception for one community, that being the same-sex couples, where does it stop?” 

Again, other people are professing Christians and believe that celibacy, unless married to someone of the opposite gender, is the best way to live. 

I mention all this because it is very easy to make generalisations and to assume the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps are without nuance. I realise that not everyone laughed at Benjamin’s Law’s “humour” about sexual assaulting MPs, and not everyone is okay with last week’s violent protest at the University of Sydney. Similarly, the assault on Kevin Rudd’s godson was absolutely wrong and cannot be defended.

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In the last few years I have written several articles on the topic of marriage and sexuality because, while marriage is incredibly personal and private, it is also a public institution. Marriage is a way in which society self-defines and divides according to family units. Governments involve themselves in marriage because of children—to safeguard children so that they may be raised by their biological parents, except in unfortunate and extreme circumstances.

Given the public nature of marriage and how Acts of Parliament are purposed to influence society, I believe it is reasonable for fellow Australians to have freedom to speak and to argue their case. 

Sadly, in the same way that some journalists and social groups paint all LGBTI Australians with the same brushstroke, we are unfortunately seeing politicians and social commentators taking the same approach to caricature any Australian who opposes same-sex marriage. 

Contrary to a series of recent journalistic efforts by Fairfax writers, believing in classical marriage is not forcing a view on to society, rather it is bringing to the public square a view on why the current legal definition makes good sense. If we cannot have freedom to do this in Australia, we no longer have freedom. If public dissent from popular opinion is no longer allowed, we are moving toward a very precarious view of society.

I wonder, even for a moment, if you might consider the possibility that someone might vote ‘no’, not because they are hateful, but because they believe love requires us to say ‘no’ at times? For now, I’m not assuming the rightness and wrongness of any particular position. But can the word ‘no’ ever be tied to good intentions?

Regrettably, there are a small number of people who, for reasons that are hateful, don’t want marriage laws to change. The reality is, most people arguing for the status quo are doing so because of good reasons and out of love, even love for those who hold a different opinion. I will return to this below.

You may disagree with my understanding of marriage, but surely it’s possible to see that it is not illogical for people to believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Until a few years ago, this was the universal understanding of marriage. Indeed, many of the now vocal advocates in Parliament for same sex marriage were, until recently, vocal supporters of heterosexual only marriage. And while a few societies throughout world history have embraced homosexual relationships, none believed that they should be defined as marriage. To believe that marriage is for a man and a woman committing to life-long union is deeply rooted in history and logic and biology, and yes even theology. 

Many relationships can be described as loving, but not all are marriage. While I believe in dignity and inherent worth of every individual, we should not confuse equity with equivalence, for that ultimately makes marriage a meaningless word. Have we forgotten the two heterosexual men from New Zealand who in 2014, married in order to win free tickets to the Rugby World Cup? Also, we should not continue to build societal structures where more children will be raised without one or both of their biological parents.

I understand that for some Australians, the ‘no’ word will be unacceptable unless it is accompanied with a ‘yes’ vote. But I wish to convey to those who can cut through the piles of unhelpful rhetoric, it is possible to stand against bigotry and to believe that marriage should not be redefined.

Hate and violence derives from commitment to a worldview that cannot tolerate difference. This worldview may be have a religious orchestration or its shape may be that of secular humanism.

In my mind are the words of Jesus, who once said that it’s relatively easy to love those whom you like and who agree with you; it takes grace to love those with whom you disagree. We all fall short of this ideal, which would leave us hopeless, except there is one who lived the ideal without ever misstepping.

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36)

In the life of Jesus, we learn that he maintained the Bible’s view on marriage, that it is between a man and a woman intended for life. Jesus insisted on this even when the governing authorities of the day tried to change his mind (they were looking to justify divorce for any reason(s). At the same time, Jesus went out his way to spend time with and care for people who were often made to feel left out and were pushed aside by mainstream society. He could love a Samaritan woman without approving of her sexual past. He would choose the poor over the wealthy, or befriend the ‘sinner’ over the religious.

A Christian must not hate, because we have been on the other side; we have belonged to the crowd who have hurt others and thrown stones of hate, pride, and greed. Christians, if they are Christian, confess their spiritual and moral destitution, and yet we have come to experience the undeserving and loving grace of God who forgives our trespasses through Jesus. Once the human heart has experienced Divine forgiveness, we cannot walk back into old attitudes of disdain for other people, nor hold onto some cold and languid acquiescence toward popular moral thought. When God replaces hate with love, it is a commitment to affirm what is good as defined by God.

I understand the difference between religious and civic marriages, and so I’m not trying to conflate the two. The point I’m making here is that disagreement and hate are not synonymous. Cannot love lead us to disagree with fellow human beings?

I do not hate you. I would willingly stand alongside you against those who insult and assault you. These same values also convince me, by reason and love, that marriage should remain as currently defined.

 

 

In accordance with s 6(5) of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017, this communication was authorised by Murray Campbell , of Melbourne, Victoria.

Calls for Macquarie University to distance themselves from Christian Academic

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.

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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.

For example:

  • 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:

  1. Cultural capitulation, with Christians abandoning Christian teachings in order to keep their jobs and reputations.
  2. Hypocrisy, Christians believing one thing in private and another in public.
  3. 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’.

Two Misnomers about Free Speech, Coopers, Qantas, and Gay Marriage

After a day or two, most news items have disappeared into Google’s search engine, which is telling, because the furore over the Bible Society and Coopers Brewery is still being reported, 1 week on. For anyone still thinking this story is a bit of froth, think again.

As with any contentious issue, emotions are high, misinformation is blended with facts, and various sides argue against caricatures, create straw men, and second guess peoples’ motives.

I have already offered an analysis of these events, and how Christians can respond, but two misnomers abound and need correcting. The first concerns the way some Christians are reading the situation, and the second relate to society more generally.

The first mistake concerns conflating a shift in the nature of public speech with progress of the Gospel or the future of Christianity. The two are not the same, and latter does not depend on the former, although they can work well together.

If Australians wish to be a pluralist society, which we are, then it is important that Australians pursue keeping this space open and available. Sadly, the events of the past week have demonstrated that this is no longer the case. There is free speech for some, but if you don’t fall into line with particular secularist agendas, watch out, because speaking up comes with a cost. The cost is nothing like it is for citizens in many other nations (think North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc), but neither is it diminutive, and this week have shown that the stakes are increasing. How many people feel comfortable to share their belief in heterosexual only marriage in the workplace? How many Australian companies will sense the liberty next week to publicly align with classical marriage? The pressure to say nothing or to conform with the self-determined moral elite has increased several degrees over the past 7 days.

Let’s be clear, a pluralist society is not the be all and end all, and neither is free speech. It does however offer a societal paradigm for respecting not only those with whom you agree but also those with whom you disagree. Christians have an interest in upholding this privilege, in part because we have somethin to say, but also because one cannot force a person to become of follower of Jesus Christ. We persuade and urge people by articulating, teaching, and reasoning with the words of God. Freedom of speech makes sense to us because honest conversation matters, truth matters, life matters, and we want people to believe for themselves, not because of compulsion.

History however demonstrates that the Gospel can advance regardless of the contemporary socio-politico milieu. Did not the Gospel grow rapidly in the first centuries when Christianity was held with suspicion and even banned for seasons? And where does the Bible ever promise that Christianity will be perennially embraced by a society? The hope of the world is not liberal democracy and our own Areopaguses, but Jesus Christ.

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A second misnomer has appeared over the last 48 hours, and while it is not immediately connected to the Bible Society video, its relevance is clear enough.

The Australian newspaper has detailed a letter that is being prepared for the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. 20 CEOs of some of Australia’s largest businesses have written a letter to the Prime Minister. They are trying to pressure the Prime Minister into breaking his election promise, which is to hold a plebiscite on marriage.

The issue is not that these 20 CEOs have expressed a view, or that they have written this letter to Mr Turnbull. Should they not be free to do so, despite the protestations of some? Indeed, it could be seen as hypocritical for one to defend the Bible Society and Coopers, and not these corporate leaders.

There are two qualifications worth considering first of all:

First, the CEOs letter is trying to accomplish a different goal to that  set out in the Bible Society video. The videoed dialogue between Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie was demonstrating how Australians can speak civilly about same sex marriage while disagreeing, whereas this letter is pushing a specific position on marriage, namely advocating for the law to change.

The Australian reports, “The same-sex marriage lobby hit back, saying all Australians should be free to voice their views and lobby politicians, including business leaders.

National campaigner for just.equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said many CEOs recognised the importance of equality for their employees and customers and had a right to represent that to law-makers.

“It’s not appropriate for a government minister to attempt to shut down views he doesn’t agree with,” he said.

In other words, it would be immoral for anyone to shut down these business people as they agitate for same-sex marriage.

Second, notice the irony. Unintended I’m sure, but these words drip with more irony than an upside down jar of honey oozing all over the floor, “Australians should be free to voice their views and lobby politicians, including business leaders”? Clearly someone has been flying in transit all week, because one Australian company, Coopers Brewery, were subject to a torrent of abuse, and so was the Bible Society, not because they were arguing the classic definition of marriage but because they were seen to sponsor a conversation where two politicians civilly disagreed with each other about marriage. Where were these executives defending Coopers Brewery? Did any speak up for them?

It was soon clarified that the brewery was not sponsoring the video, but that was not enough to end the abuse. Only when they completely distanced themselves from the Bible Society and break their agreement with them,  and signed on the dotted line to the same sex-marriage campaign, was all forgiven and people once again happy to drink Coopers beer.

I haven’t heard anyone calling to boycott Qantas, CBA, or ANZ, nor have I read any bitter herbs being tossed around on social media. There is a Government minister making some unusual comments (it appears as though there is politics at play between the Government and these organisations which I am not across. Nonetheless, I did find Mr Dutton’s comments odd).

There is an ethical question relating to the role of a company CEO speaking to moral issues when their name is attached to a company. For each of the signatories, does the coinciding Board affirm their view? Do their shareholders share and support the position with which the company name is now attached? Are employees permitted to dissent with this view? The same questions can of course be asked of Coopers.

These are questions, not answers, and none points to these CEOs keeping their views on marriage quiet; Except in the case where speaking directly contradicts the values of the company, I  would have thought executives can speak publicly as with any citizen of the country. The trouble is, one company did speak out (well, everyone thought that had for a few hours) and they were condemned in the strongest language, obscene language, and with smashed bottles and pubs boycotting.  Before the dust has settled 20 corporate executives have publicly aligned themselves with same-sex marriage, and the same vitriolic public are now applauding with tremendous approval.

Let’s be clear, I am not criticising these executives for speaking out, but our social hypocrisy reeks.

A Qantas spokesman today said on the ABC,

“The freedom to discuss issues of public concern is a freedom we all hold dear.”

This is true…so long as one doesn’t subscribe to the heresy of believing marriage is only between a man and woman. So yes, the nature of public speech has changed in Australia. It’s ok to be saddened by this, because our nation is losing a cherished ideal, but we do not despair for as the Apostle Paul wrote,

‘We do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.’ (2 Corinthians 4:1-12)

The Phoney War is Over

The days of free speech in Australia have come to an end. From today, public speech comes with a cost.

For several decades Australia has experienced a pseudo-peace. Since the 1960s the sexual revolution has been gaining momentum and slowly dynamiting deeply held views about God, humanity, sex, and family. We have noted these changes, and sometimes with protest, but mostly we just get on with life and pretend that things are not so bad. The last 3 years has seen an acceleration in social and moral change, and just maybe we are rubbing the sleep from our eyes and beginning to wonder, what’s going on? Gender is fluid, and it’s compulsory for my kids to be taught this in school? Marriage can be for 2 people of the same gender?

For several years I have tried to speak to all kind of issues in the public square, with a measure of success and also with some mistakes. Today, I’m calling it, the days of free speech have come to an end. The end though won’t be the end because the appetite of the sexual revolution is insatiable, and we are fools if we think that the conquest will end should Australia adopt same-sex marriage. Changing the law will simply escalate the efforts of those who would love to see Christianity pushed into Southern Ocean.

The catalyst for this cultural epitaph was a video produced by the Bible Society. Understand what people are so angrily protesting about:

The video does not present a hate filled preacher spitting out vitriol.

The video does not present a Christian leader carefully and winsomely articulating the Bible’s view on marriage.

The video shows a gay man who supports same-sex marriage and a heterosexual man who does not, and they are engaging in a respectful conversation about marriage while enjoying a beer.

What is so reprehensible about this video? Nothing, of course, but in the eyes of the self-determined moral judges of our age, this video debunks the myth they have spun, that civil speech and questioning same sex marriage cannot go together. From Canberra to Spring St, from SBS to The Age, we have been told that unless we support same sex marriage without qualification, we are bigots and homophobes. The problem is, this video dismantles that myth. But instead of engaging with it, there has been outrage because there is no forgiveness for those who dare denude the same-sex marriage narrative. 

The Hastie/Wilson conversation (and there are many other examples that could be mentioned) reminds us that there are still people of good will, Australians of different persuasions who believe in giving everyone a say on these important topics. What we are seeing however, are vocal and powerful people overreaching and drowning out these discussions.

To be fair, some people have also argued that the same-sex marriage is a human right, and to even question marriage change is therefore undermining their rights. I can see the point of view, but this is also a myth and needs challenging: marriage is not a human right…for anyone. It is a gift and a privilege but not a right. More than that, the onus lays with marriage change advocates to demonstrate the logic of their definition for marriage. How can any reasonable society redefine its societal foundation without first having reasoned, rigorous, and respectful discourse?

Let the reader understand, anyone, any organisation or person who allies themselves with civil discourse will not be immune for public shaming. Add God or the Bible to the mix, and the response will be even stronger.

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It’s also important for us to realise from today that opponents to free speech are not prepared to end with name calling. Despite not being a sponsor of the video, Cooper’s Brewery has been branded homophobic and could well suffer financial loss as a result. The lesson is, if you associate too closely with Christians and they happen to say anything about marriage, be prepared to take a financial hit.

It is somewhat ironic, and indeed Biblical, that this watershed day centres on an organisation that exists to bring the word of God to Australians. It’s not totally unlike when Hamlet mistakingly kills Polonius with his sword.

Waving his sword around, Hamlet shouts, ‘How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!’ He then plunges his sword into a wall carpet and kills Polonius who is hiding behind.His mother cries, ‘what hast thou done?’ , to which Hamlet responds, ‘dunno’.

I wonder, have we understood our actions and the consequences that will flow from them?

I’ve had Christian friends suggest to me today, if only the Bible Society had stayed away from same-sex marriage, as though that would keep everybody happy. Respectfully, do we not realise that that is in itself a concession, and is simply buying into the rhetoric of those who wish to outlaw dissenting speech and belief from society?

In some formal sense, free speech will exist tomorrow morning, but  in practice, a cacophonous minority have succeeded in shouting down reasoned and respectful speech. I remember one year ago referring to freedom of speech as the gordian knot of our time; well, today the sword has been taken out of its sheath and cut right through the ropes.

Free speech is gone and what we have left is costly speech. To speak truth will cost. To suggest an alternative narrative, will have you branded as bigot, and more.

Again understand, this is not about what is right and fair, or about what is reasonable and respectful, it is about conforming to the program of what Stephen McAlpine has termed, the sexual fundamentalists.

What now?

For many Australians life will go on as usual, until the shrapnel finally crashes through their own lounge-room window.

The self-determined moral elite will celebrate with a pint  of anything-but-Coopers-Beer. 

Today may well mark the end of cost-free speech in this country, but it doesn’t mark the end of the Gospel and the relevance of the Church. The reality is, we could lose all our political and civic freedoms, and yet we will not cease to love Christ and to love and serve our neighbours.

What I am praying is that sleepy Christians will wake up, alert Christians will be humble, and compromising Christians will repent.

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3)

Christians in this country have to often and wrongly believed that we can have our Christianity and  it won’t cost us anything. Sure, we recite those verses that talk about talking up our cross, and we nod in agreement, but our lives betray this flimsy assent to Jesus. We have believed the prophets of our time who calmly reassure us that there is peace, when in fact there is no peace. We work and play and make love, and believe the world is ok. We have turned to our false prophets who keep scratching where we itch and assuring us that all is well. But the phoney war has ended, and too many of us have been caught unprepared. We love our hedonistic lifestyle, and I fear many will be unable to let it go in order to follow Christ into this new Australia.

We need to wake up.

This is no time to leave behind Biblical convictions and godly character. We must resist any temptation to run away or to change teams. The one thing we can no longer afford to do is keep pretending everything is ok: I’ve got my family, and my job, and Church is there when I need it. She’ll be right, ain’t right!

If we (I’m speaking to Christians here) are serious about staying true to that which we have become persuaded of, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we can no longer afford to live in isolation from other Christians. Christians without a Church don’t survive. We need one another for encouragement, support, care, correction, and courage. Roll out of bed and commit to a local church. Forget about the materialist and ultimately self-centred Aussie dream, drop the beach days every other weekend, and instead commit  to learning from and supporting your brothers and sisters in Christ.

We also need to listen to the Bible more closely than we have ever done before. Take for example, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have been misrepresented a fair bit lately. They are not cushy and likeable sentiments, they are vital words teaching us how to live in a fallen world.

Indeed the Beatitudes give us perhaps the greatest template for speaking and living in an environment that is eager for us to disappear. It is worth every moment to read and consider the Beatitudes. Be encouraged, be challenged, be rebuked, be changed:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


If you have read this article, I’d also encourage you to read this follow up piece (published March 15th) – https://murraycampbell.net/2017/03/15/in-the-coopers-wash-up-lets-revisit-the-beatitudes/

Julia Baird defends John Dickson…sort of

“It is easy to believe in freedom of speech for those with whom we agree.” (Leo McKern)

Like an episode of ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’, Julia Baird yesterday came to the defence of John Dickson, although in a somewhat less convincing performance.

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One week ago Rev Dr John Dickson raised a question on his personal Facebook page, concerning the manner in which the same sex marriage debate is being conducted in Australia. Within hours the post was taken down by Facebook, and then reinstated one day later with a somewhat fuzzy apology attached.

In yesterday’s The Age, Julia Baird came out swinging, first of all using testimony from Prince and then proceeding to argue, ‘Dickson’s questioning should not be slammed but aired, and he is right to argue conservative viewpoints should not be so rapidly shut down or dismissed as hate. It was very odd of Facebook to delete this post.’

At the same time, Baird didn’t hold back in offering her own view on Dickson’s comments,

‘This is a massive, inadvertently inflammatory call and one I do not agree with. Surely acceptance, tolerance and absence of judgment about difference would make LGBTI youth feel better. But, isn’t it up to them, to say what makes them feel better? It is also highly provocative to accuse those who either belong to, or are allies of the LGBTI+ community of augmenting the very hatred they have spent their lives trying to fight and diminish.’

The fact that a journalist in Australia has freedom to speak her mind and to disagree with another Australian, and to do so in the most direct manner, is a sign of a healthy society. Would we want our sitz im leben to be less than this? 

In her closing statement, rather than reiterating Dickson’s right to offer an opinion, it seems as though Baird crossed the floor to the prosecutor’s table, and it is these remarks that I find most odd.

Baird finishes by quoting another Facebook post, that of Sydney Chaplain, Garry Lee Lindsay,

I can’t see how this helps anything. Please don’t try to convince me that it is intellectual debate or you are approaching the subject with an open mind and a loving heart. You might be, but why do you have to say it? And why is it so important to make comment about other people’s lifestyle or culture on Facebook? Just go out and make friends with people because they are people, made in the image of the Creator, inseparable from God’s love.

“What about calling people to prayer for those poor people in Japan and Ecuador that lost their lives and family in the earthquakes? To start with!!! What about we stop writing posts like this one, make some soup and sandwiches, go and hand it out to the hundreds of rough sleepers on our streets every night and give them some company? Why don’t I? Because I’d rather whinge about the terrible people that aren’t like me, don’t think like me, don’t live like me. And do it from a distance, because then at least I know I’m OK. What a wretched man I am? Who will save me? Thanks be to God.”

First of all, Lee-Lindsay (and presumably Baird, given she is appealing to the quote) dismisses the importance of people offering comments about lifestyle and culture matters on Facebook. Although I wonder, does  Lee-Lindsay realise that he is guilty of the very thing he is accusing of others of doing? ‘Others mustn’t use Facebook to express opinions about sexuality issues, like I am doing right now…!’

Do Lee-Lindsay and Baird not realise that these issues of marriage and of transgenderism are very much public issues? Marriage may be a personal relationship, but it is also a societal one. If it were not, why are wedding ceremonies held in the presence of witnesses, and why does Government have a role and why do we have a national marriage registry?  Similarly, recent discussions on transgenderism demonstrates it is not merely a private issue: should boys be allowed to use girls toilets in schools? How is society to relate to people who don’t wish to identify with their biological sex? It is incongruous to suggest these issues cannot be discussed in public forums; these matters effect families, schools, communities and Governments. And if they are discussed, are only agreeable voices to be allowed?

Second, the quote implies that Christians such as John Dickson are whinging as they make public statements about SSM, when what they should be doing is ‘making friends with people’ and helping people where they are at. This is not only a very smug caricature of Christians, it is hugely presumptuous. How do they know we are not providing food for the hungry, and not praying for victims of those earthquakes?

Can we not do both? John Newton was a preacher and an anti-slavery campaigner. John Wesley preached more sermons than most and he started orphanages. Jesus preached, taught and addressed all manner of social and spiritual issues, and even daring to question the political realms, and he cared for the poor and broken. Christians I know are committed both to speaking and sharing, preaching and praying, and I have no doubt John Dickson does likewise.

Despite initially supporting John Dickson’s right to post on Facebook, Baird lands on what is becoming an all to common place; while John Dickson technically has the right to freedom of speech, he really shouldn’t say anything unless he is offering unqualified support for those who wish to pursue non-heterosexual lifestyles. In fact, Christians should stick to helping people and leave public discourse to others.

Ultimately, Julia Baird falls for the false antithesis: disagreement equals hate. Why is Baird propagating such poor logic? The latter may be an expression of the former, but not necessarily. For example, as a parent there are occasions when I disagree with my children’s choices, and yet I still love them. Indeed, love necessitates that I sometimes disagree with them. More than that, Jesus Christ lived and spoke constant love, and yet this love sometimes manifested itself by offering correction to people, even rebuke.

If Christians are to be anything like Jesus we will continue to trust and graciously speak his words, the gospel, and seek to love others as Christ has loved us. As far as John Dickson has tried to emulate his Lord and Saviour, he given us a worthwhile example to follow. It is clearly unpopular, but popularity is often a poor test for what is truly good and right.