THE REFORM OF THE MARRIAGE ACT &
THE PRIVATISING MOTIF IN THE LIBERAL WORLD-VIEW
We republish what we sent out last December.
From our previous discussion, readers might well be asking whether we would be better off having a plebiscite that probed and evoked the Australian electorate’s view of how we from now on should be represented in Parliament and how true accountability of elected parliamentarians to their electors is to be restored, how a political party should contribute to making Parliamentarians accountable to their electors. Due to a persistent effort to put their party’s interests at the centre of Australian democracy, the major political parties have effectively undermined themselves as parties, and brought parliamentary democracy to its current ruinous state. And now they seem to be expecting us, the national electorate, after years of political misguidance, to provide a mature political judgment about legislation that for all intents and purposes looks like the angry deconstruction of an institution that has been with humankind for millennia. Messrs Turnbull and Shorten are clearly living in a mythological universe where they think that the cumulative vote of sovereign individuals with their sovereign rights can sovereignly solve each and every problem, and can thereby magically make same-sex relationships, which clearly are not marriage, into marriage – all by legislative fiat. And meanwhile these major political machines constituting “both sides” of politics conclusively demonstrate their ideological bankruptcy by scrupulously avoiding taking sides since that would threaten party unity! What a sham! Do they truly want us to believe they are serious?
So we keep in mind that we are being brought to the ballot box by politicians from “both sides” who have gained their political careers by becoming paid up members of these public relations firms (parties) that have resolutely refused to develop comprehensive and coherent policy framework to support an institution that has been basic to Australian democracy and is basic to any coherent political vision! The question is this: how can you have a coherent political vision if you now try to displace the male-female character of marriage with a legalised form of words purporting to ascribe generic “marriage” entitlement rights based upon “personhood” to whatever binary partnership may claim it? This is nothing other than the weasel words of a failed individualism, the ideology at the heart of liberal humanism. Is this the purpose for which liberalism has been aiming since John Locke (1632-1704), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Alfred Deakin (1856-1919) and Frederick Eggleston (1875-1954)!
The truth is that “both sides” of politics, with their respective public relations firms, are no longer capable of enunciating a political programme that requires policies that ascribe due public respect to the marital institution itself. It is not only marriage – the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life – that is being politically deconstructed here. It is the public respect that is due to this and all other institutions by all citizens that is now being subjected to a systematic public and legal dissolution. It implies that such public-legal respect for the marriage institution itself can be replaced by an abstract “compassionate solidarity” legally certified about those involved in a generic union between two individuals which the “community” is now expected by law to call “marriage”.
This might be an appropriate plot for the narrative of a sentimentalist novel located in Flatland in which gendered individuals inter-relate with other gendered individuals to demonstrate their compassion and giving opportunity so that the “other” can give occasional expression to their emotional binary solidarity. But how can a coherent political vision be developed from this two-dimensional attempt to redesign this complex human institution? How can an abstract respect for a generic “personhood” fulfil the public justice requirement to give due respect to male and female humanity? Is it truly the case that it has only been in the last century (during what many have said is a moral decline of the west) that a fundamental fact of human civilisation has been discovered, namely that marriage is merely the legalising of a sexual aspiration to unity borne of friendship and that in previous generations this fact has been obscured by an unnecessary cloaking of such a sexual aspiration in gendered terms? If so, then marriage is only incidentally a male-female bond, and we are witnessing the emergence of a new social form. Meanwhile men are to be legally respected as (potential) fathers and women as (potential) mothers without any unnecessary impediments, or person of the opposite sex challenging their right to parenthood in this undoubted individualisation process. (We have been drawing attention to these efforts to open “up the market” for human seed (male) and eggs (female) since our Nurturing Justice 2008 articles).
Make no mistake; this attempt to enlist the Australian Parliament in the “western” deconstruction of marriage is simply neo-liberalism pure and simple. This is neo-liberalism’s Whelan the Wrecker in Parliamentary guise. We are not only witnessing a comprehensive makeover of marriage but this is part of a wider attempt to give expression to what is believed to be the future’s one-and-only viable world-view. The pressure for such change is intense; it not only comes internationally, from those same-sex couples who have had their “marriage” confirmed overseas, but it also comes from those who have contracted surrogacy arrangements in other polities and returned home with their offspring and in their train have been agitating for significant changes to laws in state jurisdictions. And notice how, at the same time, just how ineffectual are the voices of “religious” dissent, given the almost complete erosion of public trust in Christian churches and their institutions, by the effective and hypocritical deconstruction of marriage by sexual abuse.
If we have only recently found reason to be alarmed by the way popular culture now takes for granted the paganism of this latest “discovery” of neo-liberalism’s version of civil rights, then perhaps we have been asleep politically and also in other cultural ways as well. We have not been as alert as we should have been to what, for decades, has been going on before our very eyes. I am not just referring to the latest in film, television and literature that more explicitly than ever before gives expression to this switch. It is as if our lives have unfolded in an altogether new context, a switch in world-view of comprehensive proportions. We may have noticed how the young man we often met on our bus was slowly but surely transforming himself over a couple of years, week-in, week-out, so that when we met last week we found it very hard to avoid averting our eyes from her. That is the kind of everyday reality that can meet us if we have eyes to see it. And let us not, by any means, under-estimate the profundity of this switch – neither for the young person claiming a transgendered identity, nor for ourselves who have to pinch ourselves to verify that we are awake and not dreaming.
Meanwhile it is the Liberal-National Coalition and Labor parties who have, in fact, by their parliamentary opportunism, brought us to this situation by their 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act. Where have the parliamentarians who so resolutely voted on that former occasion been in the subsequent decade, developing policy and a rationale for marriage in line with what they had so solemnly legislated? Answer: Nowhere. Apart from anything else they were prevented from doing so by the political machine’s demand that they stay united in conscientious quietude! Coherent policy on marriage would undoubtedly split the party, but it did not stop party advisors recommending a unanimous, or near to unanimous vote on the 2004 amendment, when this was seen as a crucial part of winning government.
And so the truth of the matter is that these “Ayes” from 2004 have not made much impact at all, at least not upon the public debate in defence of the 2004 amendment. Did they then vote for that amendment assuming it was in some ways like magic and therefore impervious to any later change? Amend the Marriage Act they did; but the problem did not disappear! This subsequent absence in public policy debate is damning evidence that though these parties may qualify for the massive share of public funding they receive for fighting elections, they no longer qualify as advocates of a coherent political vision that explains to the people of Australia what they have been doing to justify our trust. They may speak sweet words when they require political vision and compassion from the electorate, in order to harvest their share of public funds for every vote cast, but the party’s machinations only welcome “visions” when they augment the current public relations line.
And if we still happen to believe that we should vote “Noe” in any upcoming plebiscite then the pressure is well and truly upon us to look again at ourselves in relation to the times in which we are living. If we, those who profess to be disciples of Jesus Christ, are out of step with the times is it because we are keeping in step with the Spirit of this Person we say we follow (Galatians 5:25)?
This series is not an appeal to the Liberal Party to return to some kind of covert Christian Liberalism, anymore than it is a call to the Labor Party to revert to what seemed to be the Christian Socialist objective that initiated Kevin Rudd’s efforts to put his party back on the rails. No, this site is for an authentic Christian political option. And what I am suggesting is that this nation’s political community – on “all sides” – has been moving further and further away from the attempt of its major parties to adapt their liberal humanist beliefs to traditional Christian understandings, not only of the role of government, but most decidedly of the responsibilities of marriage and family. 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 we Christian citizens have been playing a game in which we accommodate ourselves to the basic tenets of the neo-liberal humanist commitment to human autonomy. Has our politics merely been an accommodation? If it hasn’t been that, where is it, where can it be seen in ongoing political terms? Where is the programme with policies that are comprehensive in scope, that are clearly enunciated to work for public justice as the way we show we love our neighbour as ourselves? Or have we been too much caught up in the humanist religious drive to transform Biblical faith into just another expression of human self-sufficiency?
Tuesday, 1st December 2015