The newspaper opinion polls are persistent with their web-based games:
Do you think pumpkin ice-cream should be mandatory for all primary school children? Currently 43% say Yes, 23% say No! and 34% are undecided.
A spokesman for the Pumpkin Ice-Cream Coalition told our reporters that due to a doubling of Yes votes over the last 2 years this clearly indicates that Australians are ready to take their progressive place in the world as leaders in health and welfare…
I leave readers to continue this fictitious reconstruction. My aim is to illustrate how newspapers these days present themselves as shapers of our political life, and by so doing continue to expose and magnify the strains of our system of parliamentary representation and political accountability. It is all very well to shout "Stop!" at this nonsense, but this game does not look like running out of puff any time soon.
In recent times we have had yet another example of journalists grabbing their own headlines, this time by beating up the Leader of the Opposition for comments he made to Australian troops after the tragic death of one of our country's soldiers in Afghanistan. Such persistent libertarian probing in order to generate a "story" is presumptive journalistic anarchy, blinded by the possibility of a story and with eyes shut tight to the privileges that go with being allowed to hear such conversations in the first place. It gains its momentum from a short-term vision that ignores the destructive consequences that will follow from quoting the speaker out of context.
Nurturing Justice has, over the years, repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that this libertarian journalistic anarchism coincides with the erosion of authentic accountability of elected Parliamentarians. And we have seen it emerge with a vengeance in relation to the issues of "body politics", whether from the former Prime Minister's double-back-flip on embryonic stem-cell research a whole decade ago or, more recently, with the persistent nagging of those seeking to have marriage legally redefined as a form of legalized sexual friendship by an unprincipled parliamentary use of "conscience votes".
The difficult and taxing work of developing a coherent Christian political option, however, must continue. To develop a coherent Christian-democratic political point of view, means working toward a well-elaborated normative understanding of civil society, diverse human responsibilities and human development. We have repeatedly emphasised that as citizens we stand in need of an understanding of Government's role for the promotion of public justice. Political life in this country needs coherent policies that respect the fact that human development is also biotic, that government's task must protect and do justice to human life at all of its stages, to human bodies, and to the processes by which personalities are developed in all the various kinds of social relationships.
We have observed that such a Christian political option must also seek to offer a concrete expression of political hope to citizens of the so-called "baby boomer" generation, whose involvement in the 1960s culture of sexual experimentation makes it difficult for them to discuss, let alone argue about, the issues of body politics. Perhaps such previous libertarianism is privately repented and this 60+ generation feels somewhat uneasy about how they have contributed negatively to the delicate fabric of human intimacy in our social life.
By viewing their current political responsibilities from this historical angle, citizens of the "baby boomer" generation still need to find a coherent explanation of where they are politically, and for Christian citizens we must find a way, despite the ongoing claim that politics has been secularised, to show that a Christian political option remains valid and highly relevant, not least for issues of "body politics".
We have also drawn attention to the political difficulties many self-defining "straight" people have with "gay marriage" and how their opposition may be made all the more complex by deep-down and unresolved feelings that they may be somewhat selfish to reject what seems like a latter-day development in the line of sexual experimentation which they also tinkered with when they flouted the prevailing sexual norms in their own teenage years, and subsequently. To prevent this generation from engaging in a legislative experiment about marriage, by allowing a re-definition so that lawful marriage be viewed simply as a relationship of "sexual love" between consenting adults, may well seem arbitrary and unfair. Why should the moral standards one generation reverted to after a period of rebellious experimentation be foist upon the next generation who are, supposedly, far more enlightened and liberal?
NJ's evaluation of the so-called debate about gay marriage is that it seems on all sides to continue with a prevailing assumption that sooner or later there will be such a change to the way the law defines marriage. But this sense of "fate" may well be related to the inability of the baby-boomer generation to come clean about their own sexual experimentation in their younger days. It is rather difficult to re-examine one's previous re-examination which led to one's current "conservative" view, particularly if that was a further modification of what one had originally thought was the view one would hold for life!
The emphasis of Nurturing Justice, as a political broadsheet, is to seek to find the wise path. And that is why Nurturing Justice will continue to make its voice heard by developing a comprehensive approach to "body politics". And so we have put forward the questions we raise - admittedly without much success if that be measured in terms of the public exposure gained by these views.
The burden of proof for wide-ranging legislative change is always upon those proposing the "radical" changes. They should not just be demanding in abstract terms but also explaining in comprehensive political terms how injustice will be perpetrated without such a change. They will also need to outline ways in which the nation will have to respond to the consequences of the change. Despite all the insistent "rights talk" of gay marriage advocacy since the mid-1980s (yes, it has been around for over 20 years) we are yet to hear how its proponents suggest that government, the parliaments, law making and the courts are going to deal with the structural consequences of such a definitional change. For instance: how is the law now to define sexual intercourse (since such is not possible for homosexual couples)? How will male-female marriages now be viewed? How are families, schools, hospitals, IVF treatment (will male couples have a right of inclusion in IVF programmes either through the legalising of surrogacy or will this change be an implicit endorsement of new technology whenever that becomes available?), churches, employment, to adjust to take account of this supposed new reality? How are the parliaments of this land to fund the nation-wide re-education programme of a new generation of children, in primary and secondary schools and in other public places, that will be required of them should they vote to change the definition of lawful marriage and attempt to re-constitute the social institution of marriage into a civil right?
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.
February 2011 © The contents of this email are copyright. Editions 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 email@example.com