THE REFORM OF THE MARRIAGE ACT &
THE PRIVATISING MOTIF IN THE LIBERAL WORLD-VIEW
Previously we have noted how the demand for “marriage equality” has entrenched itself in political movements that have brought about legislative changes that now characterise the public-legal landscape for marriage in many of the polities of the “west”. The global and inter-national consequences of this aspect of the “west’s” latter-day post-colonial colonising of the “rest” is yet to be fathomed. But it is bound to be profound. At this point in time, it seems that this “marriage equality” movement still has a full tank of petrol, and it has some considerable distance to run before its revolutionary presumption is greeted with global acclaim.
In composing this series, I have also become aware of another consequence of “marriage equality” or rather the world-wide neo-liberalism upon which it rides. I am referring to what I have called in the previous post the “privatisation” of parliamentary democracy, both in the manner in which parliamentary legislative governance proceeds but also in the effective loss of political parties, replaced by public relations firms that still retain the members and the former name of the “party”. But we should be in no doubt that the political party as a vital societal association has been displaced by the electoral machine whose primary aim – while trying to market itself as a promoter of democratic politics – is to win elections. And this process is manifest not only in party policy but also in the task of being accountable to electors and respecting their public needs. They are viewed as political “consumers”. The electoral machine with its party plan has displaced the political party.
So, if we are only now becoming aware of the far-reaching consequences of this movement for our everyday commuting and consuming, doesn’t this fact suggest that we have been stuck in the past? Now that Sesame Street has celebrated the marriage of Ernie and Bert, the message from that children’s show is that those who enjoyed them before they came “out” will be able to tell their own children what has long been the truth about all friendships that lead to marriage, and that jolly television friendship included! And if people feel somewhat cheated, well what’s that? Mere collateral damage?
Are we still in denial of this indubitable fact of human existence? If so, then I guess we just have to stand by passively to be shocked by the further “artistic” exploitation of this “market niche” in all its dimensions. This is not just about public life – film and song are also what we “do” in private. But then there is also tourism and new ways in which businesses of many kinds will be required to serve clients and consumers. And didn’t you know that it is manifest in a whole new genre of Biblical studies? Or weren’t you aware of recent research that has shown that the New Testament is an endorsement of “marriage equality”?
So now, I guess, we disciples of Jesus Christ in the South West Pacific who seek a Christian political option, should be preparing ourselves to negotiate our way through the legal mine-fields of church teaching, school curriculum and much else besides. We who see marriage as a God-given institution of a man and woman for life may well feel alienated; clearly the new politically correct “inclusiveness” is deft at sidestepping any exclusion we might feel from the political process because our alienation is after all “religious”, and what is in religious is in the “past”. We have obviously brought this alienation on ourselves by our dogged resistance to enlightenment. Our task, in the view of those who “always have and always will” support “marriage equality” rights, is simply to “join us or get out of the way”. For many who are disposed to say “Noe!” that well publicised threat from The Australian Greens simply confirms the suspicion that under the “Marriage Equality” banner there are strong forces reminiscent of totalitarian politics, intent upon redefining all of life in their own way. Like fundamentalists of the “old type”, the new variety is adept at identifying and excluding those who have a fundamentally different view; and those who differ are those who refuse to “move on”. The video linked above may restrict itself to naming only the PM and the Leader of the Opposition but it implies that the citizens who dare to dissent from their “inevitability” should have no place whatsoever in the political life of this polity. A Roman Catholic Archbishop in Tasmania can now be hauled before the Human Rights Commission to explain his pastoral advice about marriage to members of his church, but the Greens can publish such a threatening video with impunity. And who is to say how many “Aye!” votes will be cast precisely because of subtle threats like that one of 2013?
Many others who will vote “Aye!” will possibly do so because they sense that the redefinition has already taken place in other polities similar to our own – in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK. For them resistance will be futile. As a British PM said in another context: “There is no alternative!” Once it was said about capitalism; now neo-liberalism settles on “marriage equality”. These governments have embraced this “enlightenment”, so who are we to go out on a limb by saying “Noe!”? And the US is on the verge of following suit and saying “Aye!” in its own inimitable way? Do we really want to be left behind?
So, is it so fanciful to suggest that at least some of the “Aye!” votes will be those who simply avoid confronting the issue for themselves? Can they not take the “easier” way out and, instead of considering the complex political issue for themselves, adopt the view dominant in the mass media and concede that it is something that has already been decided? It would seem to me that the Liberal Party’s negotiated insistence upon a plebiscite is simply going to call out a multitude of voters who will say to themselves: “Why not? What good can I do by voting “Noe!” when it has already been decided on so many fronts?” And will not be the AFL and NFL hold celebrations of sexual identity among their stars in the weekend before the vote?
And so, who can actually calculate the percentage of carefully considered “Ayes” among the impending endorsement? To vote for anything other than “Aye” will require a willingness to take a stand against what has happened politically elsewhere around the world and a commitment to henceforth be part of a civic movement that will have to learn how to adopt a dissenting life-style in the face of trends – also in media and popular culture – that are already very much alive close to home.
The purveyors of the results of public opinion polls have been telling us for decades that “gay marriage” enjoys majority support, and in later time, they repeatedly tell us that it is a matter that receives overwhelming majority support. But if one listens carefully to those advocating “marriage equality” in recent times, it would seem that they are now targeting the Marriage Act as it was amended in 2004 by an agreement by “both sides of parliament”. Previously it was about “same-sex marriage”; now with that 2004 amendment as its focus, their demand is for “marriage equality”.
We will examine that amendment and its problematic nature subsequently. But we have also noted how this switch constitutes an implicit ambiguity challenging the integrity and reliability of the politicians who, adhering to the demands of party unity, voted for the 2004 amendment. Many of the same parliamentarians are still serving.
For now, let us briefly discuss the situation that will face a citizen who, after due consideration, might want to vote “Noe!” in the plebiscite. This citizen is going to have to be prepared to examine the issue in order to deepen understanding of what is already taken for granted in this country by so many, many fellow citizens. For that “Noe!” to be more than a futile gesture (i.e. I’m voting “Noe!” because the Bible tells me so!) the voter will need encouragement to see her or his own political responsibility as part of a complete way of life that promotes public justice and extends itself far beyond the plebiscite ballot. A “Noe!” vote should not only foreshadow future political dissent but also a viable political option that will have to be formulated in a credible programme. If this is not part of a “Noe!” then its Christian intention would seem to dissolve into mere wishful thinking. Such alternative politics is not something that can be achieved by lone bloggers, no matter how positive the efforts of one citizen may turn out to be.
But will those who vote “Noe!” also be willing to say “Noe!” publicly and explain the political reasons why they resist the abstract, revolutionary and bogus appeal to “egalité”? They may even have a well-founded intuitive sense that this redefinition of lawful marriage involves an non-Christian religious attempt to bring about a change in human identity endorsed by the parliaments of the earth. We have previously drawn attention to the brief but pertinent Youtube video featuring the biblical scholar, N T Wright on this matter. Wright warns about the totalitarian presumptions that have in other times been part of legislative efforts to redefine reality by the quasi-lawful redefinition of keys terms like “human” or in our case “marriage”.
In thinking over the sentimentalist and subjectivistic views of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (along with many others), I wonder whether she is aware of the change to the neo-liberal world-view in which she is now participating as a Minister of the Government. As we know, the neo-liberal ideology has had an enormous impact on all sides of politics. In times past, part of the electoral appeal of neo-liberalism has been its endorsement of criteria that sound decidedly “Christian”. But consider again the rationale for supporting “marriage equality” given by Ms Bishop. The liberal humanism in its individualist form, as that is found in the Australian Parliament, is full of talk about love and embracing but there is no effort whatsoever to accommodate with Biblical teaching that we humans belong to our Creator, created male and female in God’s own image:
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
Instead, it seems from listening to the Minister that we are mid-stream in the final stages of a discernible shift in her kind of liberalism – it has probably taken more than 50 years for the shift to develop the stark outlines in which it appears today. The traditional emphatic liberal focus upon an individual’s choice within a free-market was bolstered by the occasional rhetorical plea that freedom derives from our Christian heritage or some such “religious” justification. This bolstering, it would now seem, is now redundant, having been displaced by a post-modern “holy respect” for the “personal sphere” from whence derive human rights and from which “sexual identity” also arises. Conveniently, this is also the criterion that has been used to justify a politician’s “conscience” even if “conscience votes” were not allowed to challenge party unity.
Human maturation does not arise in response to demands that come from any central relatedness to God, but purely and simply from choices based upon human autonomy by which a person places him or herself on a continuum of gendered identity, hetero- and/or homo-.
And while both sides of politics are unable to distance themselves from this concept of human autonomy as basic to their respective visions of political responsibility, their parties have simply had to adapt to this neo-pagan classification about sexuality that cannot now be challenged on pain of undermining electoral support built up by decades of populist public relations.
This is not an appeal to the Liberal Party to return to some kind of covert Christian Liberalism. This site is for an authentic Christian political option. And what I am suggesting is that in this country politics – on “both sides” – is moving further away from its previous failed attempts to adapt their liberal humanism to traditional Christian understandings of the role of government. And if that is so, then we Christian citizens are going to have to ask ourselves some equally serious questions about the corollary of the neo-liberal accommodation of an ostensibly Christian view, namely the degree to which our own Christian understanding of politics has been accommodating the basic tenets of the neo-liberal humanist commitment to human autonomy. Has our politics been as Christian as we had hoped it might be? Or have Christians been too caught up in the humanist religious drive to transform Biblical faith into just another expression of human self-sufficiency?