Australia’s Impending Election (12)

IF THERE IS TO BE A PLEBISCITE …

It seems likely that there are some Christian citizens who oppose change to the Marriage Act’s definition of marriage. They will welcome the chance of registering a dissenting “Noe!” to “marriage equality” in the plebiscite to be held under the new Parliament as foreshadowed by the “deal” struck between the Liberal-Coalition factions. No doubt some Christian voters are hoping for a Liberal victory so that “the people can decide” whether a same-sex partnership is a marriage, or not.

But the debate is much wider that the rights and wrongs of “marriage equality” and whether the Marriage Act should be amended to embrace a “legal error based upon an empirical mistake”. It is also about whether the Australian Federal Parliament’s Marriage Act is to be brought in line with similar changes that have been legislated or handed down in Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the USA and many other polities as well. Will our Government be willing to embark upon an international offensive to convince these friendly Governments that they are wrong? Isn’t that’s also part of what the Australian political debate is about at this time?

But even with the return of a Liberal-Coalition Government, it is by no means certain that a plebiscite will be held. (After all the “head prefect” is still held in check by “the guys in the locker room”.) Yes, the Liberal-Coalition is held together by an “agreement” that a plebiscite will be held if they are returned. But apart from the cost – and that is sure to raise criticism – could there not be a private member’s bill, or a bill originating in the newly configured Senate? With so many of the Liberal-Coalition having already signalled their support for “Marriage Equality”, the legislation may be passed before any plebiscite can be organised. And would the victorious Liberal-Coalition PM vote against his “conscience” in order to secure the plebiscite?

Whether there is a plebiscite or not, a concerted Christian political response to the well-organised, international “Marriage Equality” movement, has simply not materialised, neither here, nor in the region. The time for beginning to organise such a response to what we now face probably passed a decade or more ago. Nurturing Justice has already drawn attention to the way the “Australian Christian Lobby” has registered support for the Liberal Coalition and its promised plebiscite. We can expect advertising campaigns, and public announcements by churches, but we do not have “marriage and family policy” as a coherent part of a comprehensive policy platform. as to how they propose to respond.

So how should Christian political dissent to “marriage equality” be framed? A plebiscite may give us the size of resistance to “marriage equality”, but it can only be one step with very limited political value. What is needed is a political programme. A genuine Christian political option will not arise simply because Christian citizens en masse say “No to Marriage Equality!”  Nurturing Justice has a decade-long record of explaining why such a change to the Marriage Act would be a mistake. We have scarcely begun to raise interest in the viewpoint we have developed. Patience, we are told, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The urgent need at this time among Christian citizens is to learn how to cultivate political patience. For the moment it is a matter of disciplining ourselves with a basic and long-established Christian rule: Ora et Labora. 

Next time, we will flag a few pointers that we believe should be part of a positive Christian political option.

6th June 2016

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