Some are calling this week’s Australian federal election the most important in decades. It has certainly stirred considerable interest among those who feel that traditionally-held values are under threat. More significantly, perhaps, is the manner in which some politicians are framing discussions with emotive, even aggressive, claims against people who hold such concerns (see various links below). John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity addresses this in ‘The Myth of the Hateful Christian’ and he also offers helpful comments on how to vote responsibly from a Christian perspective.
Three important reminders that things are not always what they seem are well worth contemplating in the final days of the election campaign, so as to ensure a responsible and well-considered vote that is not wasted (bearing in mind that voting only for minorities in the senate can potentially eliminate that vote if they are not elected and increase the chances of less desirable candidates, given that parties no longer automatically allocate preferences – see examples here).
1. Being Green is not just about being Green. It possibly goes without saying, but the Australian Greens have a party name that may imply a primary focus on responsible environment management. Few would disagree with this as a commendable value and it is particularly appealing to younger voters. However, the Greens (like all parties) have many other policies which are often overlooked when the party name disguises them, including the removal of discrimination exemptions for Christian organisations that would both regulate speech and employment (such as the inability of Christian schools and churches to require that all their staff be practising Christians). Every organisation and individual will inevitably discriminate on many fronts but politicians are increasingly and disturbingly deciding which forms are and are not acceptable.
2. Marriage Equality is not just about Equality. The key issue here is that the definition of marriage may soon change. This is also not the domain of politicians, or even a matter for decision by the people, since marriage is an institution created by God who sets the parameters for it and asks us to understand and accept that it is fundamentally and innately heterosexual in nature. Many arguments for changing the definition of marriage are based on a deconstruction of biblical texts often motivated by empathy for a supposedly sizeable proportion of society that straight people are accused of being unable to properly offer (even though the percentage of gay people is nowhere near the 10% often claimed and is actually well below 2%). However, preserving the current definition of marriage is not primarily about empathy or even rights. It simply honours what marriage is and what it is not according to the Bible which leaves no wiggle room for those uncomfortable with it. For politicians to denigrate defenders of traditional marriage as homophobes and haters is offensive opportunism that presumptively silences respectful and reasonable debate.
3. The Safe Schools project is not just about Safety. Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby was recently accused of trivialising the Jewish Holocaust by drawing comparisons between the bulldozing politics of the Safe Schools coalition and unquestioning acceptance of propagandist policy in 1930s Germany. However, supporters of this radical gender ideology which is widely criticised nevertheless do engage in the polarising, aggressive and divisive labelling of opponents as bigots, with Victorian parents recently receiving the well-publicised ‘Tough Luck’ response to their concerns. Hiding behind what is an obvious need for safety in schools, some proponents presume to think voters unable to discern that the safe schools curriculum and its misrepresented statistics are actually about LGBTI advocacy and not really about bullying, a fact that the chief writer of the Safe Schools material has admitted!
It is quite concerning that conservative opinions are increasingly presumed to be ignorant, outdated or even hateful, as if free speech is only to be permitted when it is the right speech. Separation of church and state was designed to prohibit this very sort of oppression. It was certainly not designed to stop the church being a responsible prophetic voice to the community (notwithstanding the flaws of a minority of church people for whom the majority need not be unfairly tarred with the same brush).
We also surely need to reject the misguided and illogical presumption that society’s moral views should evolve and be progressive as if somehow to be democratically determined. Esteeming the values that have made Australia the great nation that it is, ones grounded in responsible and contextualised reading of the Bible, need the foremost consideration of every Christian this Saturday.