In this series of articles, I want to address readers in an “in-house” way. I propose to address readers as fellow-participants in the development of a Christian political option for Australia and the South-West Pacific as we have announced in the NJ by-line. I propose to discuss how we, who profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ, should understand ourselves as Christian citizens members and citizens of the South West Pacific political region and therefore citizens of Australia, New Zealand, and the various island states of South Pacific, including Fiji, PNG, Vanuatu and the Solomons and many more Melanesian and Polynesian states as well. I want to focus upon our political task with respect to the institution of marriage. I am assuming that the way we respond to the ongoing demand for “marriage equality” will indicate how we understand ourselves as the disciples of Jesus Christ in this part of the globe.
The Australian Federal Parliament is on the brink of taking decisive steps that are aimed to see this polity join Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, The Netherlands and 18 other polities around the world in redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships. When our Parliament finally enshrines this legal error based upon a simple empirical mistake in the proposed amendment to the Marriage Act, it will bring to culmination a “reform” that seems to gain more and more support by the day. Indeed, for the supporters of this “reform”, the latest being the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, this legislated change will mean that for all legal purposes marriage will be viewed as a relationship between two persons, rather than as it has been hitherto, here and elsewhere, an exclusive betrothed relationship between a man and a woman.
This ongoing political and legislative effort is indeed fully part of a sustained well-financed world-wide campaign that has been waged for decades. It has done so with increasing intensity over the past 15 years. The campaign is driven by a neo-liberal world-view that constitutes a direct challenge to the Christian way of life world-wide. In this series of broadsheets I wish to explore this and the various dimensions of what is being proposed.
There is something inherently problematic about the twists and turns that this debate has taken. We now will face a plebiscite should the Liberal-Coalition be returned at the election. One does not need too much reflection to see how the Liberal Party, through the Minister for Foreign Affairs is preparing to wedge Labor on its view that it should not be decided by a plebiscite. Ms Bishop has opined:
“I think the Australian people should have their say. I have absolutely no concerns about it myself, but I know there a lot of people who are deeply concerned about the issue,” she said. That’s why I think a plebiscite, where the Australian people get to have a vote on it, on an issue as fundamental as this, that goes to the very composition of our community, the way we feel about each other, how we treat each other, that’s the core of a plebiscite.”
What is truly revealing here is what the Minister is assuming to be a normative and taken-for-granted state of affairs within the Parliament and within her own party. The populist and libertarian principle vox populi vox dei is of such moment that her own party is incapable of having a view that might challenge public opinion. The issue might “go to the very composition of our community” but the Liberal Party is admitting that it is no longer able to have a clear and unequivocal policy position on marriage itself.
If we are to take what she says at face value – as no doubt she would want us to – then what she is saying is that her party has been incapable of resolving the “issue as fundamental as this”. Her party is not only now presumptively “neutral” with respect to the issue, but has been unable despite its own vaunted advocacy of marriage and family in times past of maintaining a coherent policy stance to put to the Australian people. It is very hard to interpret that statement without viewing it as an implicit admission of the Liberal Party’s total failure on this matter. It is this complete failure that the current leader and PM is being asked to oversee and to tweak into some kind of “success”.
With such a senior minister advocating “marriage equality” in terms of the way we feel about each other, how we treat each other, we see a decided move away from any serious discuss of law, of jurisprudence or even of marriage itself. This significant statement by senior Liberal Party parliamentarian, joining with others who have called for “marriage equality” in public demonstrations, in churches, on lapel pins, in the media is trying to suggest that a plebiscite will signal the end of the matter. But quite apart of what we would face if it does not get the sufficient support, we are still waiting for an explanation of why people have changed their minds on this matter.
Further, are we to seriously believe that an “Aye” would be the end of the matter? And just as important are we ever going to have a serious public debate if such parliamentarians who have hitherto voted “Noe” explain to us why they are now proposing to change their parliamentary vote on the issue. Does it not indicate a change in their view of human identity that is thereby proposed? Quite simply for elected parliamentarians to align themselves with the view that the Marriage Act should be brought in line with the theory that human sexual identity is what it is by humans facing up to our sexual attractions. This would not only plunge our parliamentary democracy into the cauldron of a new moral absolutism but presumes that parliament’s task is to signal its agreement or otherwise with a popularly endorsed theory of marriage and human identity. One logical consequence of this theoretical assumption, which is by no means openly and frankly set forth by those promoting “marriage equality” legislation, is that humans must be understood in terms of the place they occupy on a spectrum between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Some Christians have undoubtedly sincerely believed that it is their Christian duty to accommodate this view to Biblical teaching. Still, the question for Christians must arise: how is this underlying anthropology that, on occasion, makes its implications felt in “marriage equality” discussion, to be understood in relation to Biblical teaching, and the teaching of Jesus Himself, that the image-bearers of their Almighty Creator have been created male and female, stewards of God’s creation?
We must return to this issue in later posts. It is undoubtedly of great importance to us and to our “Christian political option”.