Think about it. What if Senator Hanson-Young's bill from 2009 had passed? How then would we be advocating a biblically-directed view of friendship, and how would we be able to publicly commend an authentic Christian view of courtship? Could we do so without running foul of newly legislated civil rights of the gay people who are deemed to be "married", or of the gay people who want to be "married"? Think about it.
And there are other consequences that will ensue should the legislation be passed with the presumption that marriage has thus been turned into a civil right in this polity. All is not lost. But attempts to generate a Christian form of populism, in which Christians act as if the voice of the Christian people is God's voice, is certainly not the way to go.
As we consider a Christian political option and work our way through these issues, we need to stoutly resist the temptation to simply laugh at the naiveté of the proponents of this legislative change as if laughing is able to fulfil our political responsibilities on this issue. There is a long list of questions that we will need to address if we are to responsibly assess all the consequences of such a change. It may be an issue that is continually pictured in the media as a development that is "on the brink" of happening. But we shouldn't allow that hype to faze us. It is certainly not merely a matter of enlightenment and embracing a legislative change that mistaken post-modernists say is progressive. But it is no laughing matter. The fact that we can almost laugh at this naïve proposal should actually make us ashamed because this issue, in particular can help us to see that we have not done the political things that we ought to have done and as Christian people we confess that we too are responsible for the sad state of our polity. Let me say it again: we Christian should be ashamed of the political service in Christ's name that we have left undone! We may not have to be accountable to an electorate for our performance in Parliament, but as a broadsheet writer - whether anyone reads this or not - or just as someone with an opinion about political issues are accountable for whether we have offered a cup of cold water to those thirsting for public justice and righteousness, yes also to those fellow citizens on the homosexual life-style path who may be advocating this change but who wonder whether it is all a rather futile and self-centred attempt to change the world to fit in with one's own desires.
If we are accountable to the One who came to serve and to give His life, a ransom for many, then because of that service with its significant political dimensions, we are called to serve our neighbours, all of them, with justice. It is in that same spirit of costly service that we are to live as citizens. We need to live in such a way that our civic neighbours see, also in our political lives as fellow citizens, a thankful obedience to God. And perhaps we are not going to be interrogated about the principles that lead us to oppose "gay marriage" legislation until our civic lives are visibly active showing the love of the One we are call to image, in acts of justice and mercy, active in a positive political sense for as long as it takes. That is, for as long of Jesus Christ requires us to be active in His service - until He comes.
Yes, we Christians in the Australian polity confess that we shouldn't now be at this juncture. But we, as a community called into service on the Saviour of the nations, have to confess that we have not been able to properly commend the marriage institution in a political context as it now needs to be commended. Like never before. But to do so requires a different view of politics than the one we have accommodated.
If that is where we stand, then the gospel itself propels us, leaving us with no choice, to active love of our neighbours through the promotion of public justice for all, and that must also mean working together, locking arms and not neglecting to find each other and to meet together in order to build an authentic Christian political option.
I'm what is often called a "baby boomer", born in 1951. Since 1975, and even before that time I guess, I was just another member of this polity who had begun to learn that marriage was not just a social convenience that had evolved so that young men traumatised by their war service could have something to fight for, had something to treasure and to stay alive for and something to come back to. In certain respects, the public discussion about marriage, over my life-time, has been about winding back that mythic misperception, however helpful marriage may have proved to be to those returning servicemen and women in the aftermath of those tragic circumstances.
I think that it is feasible to say that we are still living in the aftermath of World-World Two in many respects. We can still listen to the returning service personnel of that era, their spouses, their friends and peers, their families, and we might be forgiven for concluding that what I have said above was what marriage became for so many of them and what it was all about. It helped them get their lives back together again. But since then we have had to re-learn that marriage does not need a war to have its existence justified. We have had to re-discover the institution of plighted troth of a man to a woman and a woman to a man, and experience how it survives the culture of post-war human misperception and will still survive the misperceptions of it that have made it such an ambiguous option for so many.
In certain respects the world-wide attempt to have the marriage institution redefined in law as merely the constructed permanent social relationship of two persons of whatever sex or gender who wanted to be labelled married, has to be seen against the background of widespread uncertainty as to just what the marriage institution is. But whatever homosexual "living together" may be, and whatever name the partners to such a "gay marriage" may wish to attach to their union, and whatever Christian churches may "bless" and whatever secular political parties and the misinformed governments under their control may try to legislate, marriage as the institution of a promise-of-conjugal-love-for-life-between-a-man-and-a-woman will still exist. It may even come to the stage when it is subject to official penalty, if not persecution. Recall that the Bolsheviks one minute tried to abolish marriage and then in the next breath, as it were, they had to confront the resultant social anarchy of their progressive abolition, and instead passed a decree that it was a party member's solemn duty to get married and to adhere to this formerly denigrated "bourgeois institution"! Long live the revolution! Not!
Even if the governments in this land make this silly, impatient and unnecessary change to the definition of lawful marriage, we can be sure that the end is not yet. It will not change the structure of this institution, even if it be disastrous for our society and the conduct of droves of people will change to simply "go with the flow". That institution which is of a solemn-vow-of-exclusive-conjugal-love-for-life-between-a-man-and-a-woman will still be around. We need to think about the serious civic consequences of any such change and be ready, not to say "I told you so!" but to lend a helping hand to fellow citizens who may find life very strange and confusing as a result. There are bound to be unanticipated consequences - believe it. But lending a hand is also what we should be doing now. Support of "marriage equality for gays and lesbians" is not actually confronting the uncertainty about marriage that prevails in our society. It is actually to run away from the problem.
Maybe instead we should simply stop and ask ourselves how we can live, what life-style we should adopt, in order to challenge and one day, with God's help, overcome the deep spiritual uncertainty about marriage that has prevailed and persisted in this society since the 19th century. Consider all tge progressive movements since that time: the growth of the union movement, giving full citizenship to all, expanding work opportunities for women, opening up education and higher education to all sectors of society, health promotion efforts whether seeking to restrain trade in alcohol or tobacco, the establishment of social welfare organisations to confront the worst effects of industrialisation, the development of Catholic Social Teaching, the persistence of evangelical "uplift" crusades, the attempts to modernise Christian teaching with the so-called social gospel movement. And think about how these presupposed healthy marriages, and family life. And keep in mind that all of these developments, and many more, were initiated in our society with full knowledge that "marriage is not what it once was."
And so we need to reflect carefully on marriage and try to think about these developments in relation to the institution of a solemn-promise-of-conjugal-love-for-life-entered into-by-a-man-and-a-woman lest we, by our attitudes and resultant conduct, merely exploit the issue in reaction to either the seeming popularity of the gay marriage lobby or the sadly mistaken views of confused archbishops and other "enlightened" religious persons.
It's also a question about the way people's efforts to form their own identity and lifestyle is dominated, as it has been for decades, by the follies of glossy "women's magazines" exploiting female bodies and undies, by smart aleck radio talk-back shows in which it is cool to have pornographic advertising, by the sentimentalised television soap operas that continue to run, by newspapers and TV news media willing to pay prurient attention to a celebrity footballer's shower with a young woman who thinks her body is something to be exploited commercially.
We have lots to think about. Let us do so boldly.
Nurturing Justice is written by Bruce Wearne, Point Lonsdale, to encourage a sustained Christian political contribution by seeking justice in the gentle and merciful rule of Jesus Christ, the ruler over all of the earth's political regimes.
October 2010 © The contents of this email are copyright. Documents may be photocopied or retransmitted in their entirety but not otherwise reprinted or transmitted without permission. "Nurturing Justice" is a project to encourage Christian political reflection based upon wise and loving civic participation. Comments are welcome and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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