When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to the podium to speak on the night of the Federal election, there are a number of things he could have said that wouldn’t have been surprising at all. What he did say was very surprising.
I can report that based on the advice I have from the party officials we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament (source).
This statement was clear. It was decisive. It was confident bordering on arrogance. At the time I wasn’t sure whether it was a sign of madness or a stroke of genius. I’m still not sure. What is clear though, is that the PM took a bold gamble. And won. And this speaks to the kind of man he is I think. He didn’t get caught up in the hype of the media analysis. He surrounded himself with competent advisors, got the advice, and then made a call. And in doing so, he placed himself as the leader of the nation during that time of potential instability. We Australians aren’t big fans of politicians. But for all that, I’m not sure even we can fail to appreciate strong leadership in a time of instability.
But all that is pretty much history now. He was right. It’s now a question of how the details will play out. And whether the government can function effectively in the long run. Time will tell. My goal here is not to analyse the election, but rather to point out that Christians were given an amazing opportunity at this election, and I’m not sure many of us realise it yet.
I wrote a piece before the election titled The #1 issue for Christians this election: Religious freedom. Unfortunately, the issue didn’t get any attention in the election campaign and is even less likely to get attention now.
Unless we require that it get attention.
Let me set out the case simply. Christianity condemns the practice of homosexuality. It always has. It always will. We didn’t decide this in the first place and we don’t have the option of changing it going forward. This is, for better or for worse, part of what it means to be Christian. Sure, there are those who twist it to be otherwise. People do a lot of things. But the Scripture has never changed and will never change and we are a people of the Book. Full stop.
There is, however, stuff that can change. We can end bullying of LGBTI people. We can stop being angry at LGBTI people. We can stop treating LGBTI people as inferior to ourselves. There are a lot of things that, according to our faith, we can and should change. And if we’re not leading the charge in that, thank God others are. Society can and should require of us that we provide a safe, accepting environment for all our neighbours (note I did not say all of our neighbours’ ideas, choices, and actions). Jesus requires no less.
But at the same time, society ought never require us to violate our consciences or the dictates of our Christian faith.
Here’s the long and short of it. If we truly value religious freedom, Christian ministers can never be required to marry same-sex couples; Christian ministries can never be required to hire practicing homosexuals; and Christian people can never be banned from confessing their views on same-sex activity. It’s that simple.
Had Labor gotten in, we’d be a few months away from legalised same-sex marriage. As is, the timeline is pushed out by a few years. Probably.
I’m sure there are some Christians who feel passionately about this issue and feel obligated to put up a fight against it. But I’m suggesting that Christians change our focus from stopping that tide, and instead focus on enshrining our religious freedom, particularly in this matter, in the legislative fabric of the Marriage Act and/or the Constitution.
There are two benefits to this. First, we can minimise fear. Currently, Christians are afraid that we will be forced to violate our faith. Which we cannot do. We genuinely believe that our pastors will go to court. Probably even gaol. And this fear distorts the debate horribly. The LGBTI community has long viewed Christians as the persecutors so when Christians speak as the persecuted, it enrages them. And if we’d spend a few minutes in their shoes, we’d understand why.
Second, it might… might… make the LGBTI community feel a little less attacked. A little less marginalised. A little less like we hate them. Imagine how that might help our efforts at convincing them that we love them.
So how do we get something like this off the ground? I don’t know. I’m not a political activist. Or a lobbyist. Perhaps if you forward this post to your pastor or local MP or to the Australian Christian Lobby. I don’t know.
What I do know is that this approach, brought successfully to legislation, could do a lot to ensure that Australia remains a truly inclusive society and to bring healing to the social fabric of our nation. Hard-line, either/or, legislation-of-morality culture wars (emphasis on wars) are a grand tradition. In America.
Is that really what we want here? Is that really what God requires? Is that the pattern of the early church under the Roman Emperor Nero?
Thank you for reading this. I hope you’ll think about it and pray about it. And if you end up agreeing, perhaps consider doing something to help shift the thinking of our culture.
Grace to you.