A FRESH START FOR A CHRISTIAN POLITICAL OPTION?
Could a combined “Christian protest” arise as a result of the current election and the inevitable Parliamentary wrangle over “marriage equality”? It is unlikely. And the question would be this: how can such a protest avoid getting caught up in, and merely becoming part of, the current political confusion? This confusion is not just about marriage, not just about the place of sex and sexuality in our lives. It is also about public governance. The confusion about how these vital aspects of our life are to be given their due by Government is intense and seemingly multiplies day by day. Nurturing Justice is written with an appreciation that it needs to be written with an understanding of this context, a context that can very easily blunt any useful thing we might want to say. And so, these posts are written with the expectation that the well elaborated Christian political option we are seeking to promote – the kind of comprehensive platform and programme that should be part of any political party that seeks justice for all – may be years, even decades, away.
But as we seek to cultivate a Holy Spirited political patience here are some “dot points” to go on with:
Such a Christian political movement should seek to give support to the institution of marriage as part of a conscious and organised effort – reaching beyond our shores – to stand with other Christians in other countries in an international network of solidarity to resist this and other dimensions of the debilitating neoliberal neopagan ideology. A “Christian international” is indeed needed to give support to communities that still view themselves to be based upon marriage as a male-female institution. At home, the impact of subtle non-Christian ideologies can only be resisted by living a “Christian way of life”, rejecting the commodification of children that is already the corollary of a hyper-commercialised understanding of marriage, family and household life. It will not be a solidarity narrowed down to marriage and family related issues as if these could be considered in isolation. It will also be a peace movement, joining in efforts to enhance international law, end war between nations, and halt the overflowing obscenity of trade in armaments. See here and here, just for starters.
Such a Christian political movement will have to come to a clear understanding of legislation in times past that has decriminalised homosexuality. To move on with an uncompromised policy with respect to marriage and family, will require deepened insight into what has spurred decriminalisation process around the world that has been justly based on legal judgements that correctly consider homosexual relations to be non-marital human relationships. (We have covered this in “Australia’s Impending Election (10)” and in the Appendix). Such public policy research will not only have to develop an understanding of how the “marriage equality” movement, and its related LGBTI rights claims, presuppose the decriminalising of homosexuality, but will have to have deepened ethnological and sociological understanding of the ways of life that have long since been developing within contemporary societies around the world. In order to adhere to the New Testament teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles about marriage, by which the full and complete expression of sexual union is only ever contemplated in terms of a marriage between a man to a woman, a Christian political movement will still have to work with an elaborated historical understanding of marriage and family law and of the criminalising of such same-sex relationships and their subsequent decriminalisation. For public legal judgements to be made that apply criteria that are appropriate for judgements about marriage relationships to relationships between non-married persons will not only potentially and actually infringe the freedoms and rights of non-maried persons but will indirectly and significantly promote confused understandings of marriage and its character. It should be understood and argued that the health of marriage as an institution is not advanced by a confused legal application of marriage normative criteria to relationships that are not marital. This also must have implications for how we understand the human body, and how our scientific understanding of its processes and functions, are to conveyed in school curriculum.
Such a Christian political movement will need to foster the development of a distinctively Christian jurisprudence and with that should also go a comprehensive political theory and political sociology. A scholarly development is required to foster understanding of the place and vital importance of a Marriage Act in public governance of this federated Commonwealth. Such a scholarly and professional movement of those trained in the law should coincide with the development of a non-synthetic, non-accommodative Biblically-directed science and scholarship. Such a political movement will require policy research by Christian scholars in all disciplines. This will also require a clear vision of the reformation of science, scholarship, education and schooling and the articulation of policies with reform of public education in view.
Such a Christian political movement should draw to the attention of the Parliaments of this Commonwealth the solemn public vows required of the man and the woman upon entering into their marriage. The integrity of such vows is in fact regularly challenged by libertarian popular culture, and this “liberty” has been unchecked for perhaps a century. (In relation to a previous vote in the federal Parliament on a bill concerned with “gay marriage”, it was said to have been brought on to coincide with Sydney’s Mardi Gras festival). There is an ongoing and fashionable disrespect directed toward the marriage institution itself. It is often extremely subtle and such a political movement will need to be alert to the need for appropriate public education about the way in which human responsibilities can be undermined. There are laws that already prohibit defamation and our polity is also in need of a healthy ethos of respect for the marriage institution. Given the ethos of violence that is the corollary of a culture obsessed with sexual excitement, such a concerted effort by Parliaments to ascribe respect to marriage and the activity of bringing a new generation in to the world, is clearly in the public interest but will require insight and resilience if longer term benefits are to be justly achieved. The solemn vows made between a man and a woman upon their betrothal are of such weight that it is vital and urgent to promote Parliamentary and public respect for marriage. The Parliament through its legislative contribution must also pass laws that ascribe due respect to the marital bond of a man and woman and in so doing prepare the policy ground for due public respect to be ascribed to the next generation of citizens, the children, as yet unborn, who will be given to those married wife-and-husband couples. They are also mothers and fathers of future citizens who must one day take up their task in ensuring public justice is for all.
Such a Christian political movement would develop “whole of government” policies to promote justice for marriage (so understood as a male-female institution) and family (as an institution of parents – mother and father – and dependent children), and thereby provoke all aspiring political parties to face up to an important dimension of the political task of not only claiming to have policies that promote justice and due respect to all, but participate in ongoing political education about the common good and how Parliament, with the support of all citizens, has a task in fomenting justice for all.
There may or may not be a plebiscite as an outcome of this current election. The above dot points affirm that our political life in this polity is in need of a coherent programme to ascribe due respect to marriage and family life. It will possibly take all of a decade before such a political movement could be properly and responsibly organised, with strong home and abroad connections to endeavours like schools, social welfare, hospitals and aged-care facilities. There is ongoing “foundational research” in all areas of scientific enquiry that is needed to strengthen such a political movement in its legislative and electoral work. It will probably be longer than merely a decade. But no one should read the above “dot points” as anything other than a first attempt to explain how marriage and family policy should function as an integral component of a comprehensive political programme. We have only begun to scratch the surface of what is implied. The issues are complex and sometimes the path to public justice is very difficult to discern.
A Christian political option, as an organised electoral alternative, may be many years away. Those of us working on it now may not even live to see it in its subsequent fuller disclosure. But this is not pessimism. Neither is it cynicism. The political task is a vocation coram Deo. We are called to a discipleship of bold hope. But the above points are formulated to indicate a repentant path for a suggested Christian path of political discipleship, open to all who confess and look for the coming of God’s Rule in Jesus Christ. This is simply about getting in line with the teaching of Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament, loving God with our entire life including our efforts to ensure public justice for all our neighbours.
7th June 2016