Discussing and Dissenting From Legislated Mistakes

There is an article about the Australian Football League that can be found on the New York Times web-site – it raises serious questions about how the homosexual identity of footballers. The article seems to want to suggest that there might be many who have not yet “come out”. The problem with the article is that it assumes that such shyness will be overcome if the AFL publicly affirms the validity of homosexuality as part of this sport. The argument goes that AFL (what we and our mums used to proudly call “Aussie Rules”) should now become part of the seamless moral rainbow carpet under all the nooks and crannies of public life in all domains of popular and corporate culture is to be lived out … Not only should the executive of the AFL condemn “homophobia” they should now be following the lead of Qantas and publicly affirm the absolute necessity of a change in the definition of marriage to ensure “marriage equality”. Equality is the current trump card.

The article is interesting for the journalist’s deft ability to bring together the previous effort to oppose racism as a forerunner to this latter-day extension of human rights that would make this change because marriage is considered to be a human right (even if it is not yet listed among those rights in the UDHR or other such documents).

We can expect that the international commentariat with strong links, to the media in this country, have been happy to see this NYT article published. In it one advocate of marriage equality put his views in these terms:

“If the A.F.L. was a parliament, we’d have marriage equality now,” said Clint McGilvray, who works with the Equality Campaign, a national effort to expand Australia’s marriage laws. “We wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Presumably this means that male footballers who would like to be known as husbands of their husbands should be able to “come out” with the full backing and support of the AFL – the family-football competition! The article itself may be worth reading if only to confirm just how systematically human relating is thoroughly blurred by this “rainbow ideology”.

But on the face of it this kind of throw away comment is deeply problematic. Is not this suggesting that the purpose of legislation is to ensure that discussion is no longer necessary because … well why wouldn’t we have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of same-sex marriage if legislation changes the Marriage Act to put marriage within the reach of same-sex couples? Will such a change be the end of discussion? Has it been the end of discussion about the proper meaning of marriage (let alone the proper boundaries of family, household and friendship) in jurisdictions where “marriage equality” laws have been legislated? Of course not.

Will legislation put an end to the discussion about what it means to be human? Of course not.

Did legislation that presumed that aboriginal people should not be counted among Australia’s official population stop all discussion about the injustices inflicted upon the descendants of those who have lived in this land for thousands of years? Thankfully not.

Admittedly, Mr. McGilvray was being quoted, but his comment even if we don’t have the full statement, or his own elaborated account, still suggests a serious misunderstanding about the duty of citizens who believe the law is wrong, to maintain their stand even if that means for decades or longer. Ironically Mr. McGilvray in reflecting upon his own championing this cause may claim that that is what he has been doing. Well in that case he ought to know that just like he wishes to expand marriage law to include the legal possibility for same-sex couples to marry, so there will be those who will believe that any such expansion that denies what marriage is will continue to be discussed in ways of life that will resist the Government’s legislated mistake! The populist rhetoric of Mr. McGilvray, like the nonsensical Liberal Party “let’s legislate to get this matter off the agenda”, is cause and consequence of a deeply flawed political way of life.

But Mr. McGilvray, as much as the “rising star” of the Liberal Party we featured in our recent post, as much as the makers of the election television advertisement that warned those who did not agree with same-sex marriage to “get out of the way”, should reflect upon the fact that the current legislated definition of lawful marriage has not put an end to discussion. 

As we continue to say, the fraught issues of “human body politics” cannot be avoided; they will be discussed in everyday life and when government gets it wrong in legislation that too will be under discussion.

But now, the major political parties have locked themselves out of responsibility to shape public political debate. For decades both sides have scrupulously avoided comprehensive policies with respect to these issues in order to avoid losing votes, and parliamentary seats. Now they are simply incapable of giving leadership in public debate about such vital matters. They may speak out on these issues but in a furtive way, when they sense it is safe to do so. And if they propose to follow the rhetorical direction suggested by Mr. McGilvray they should understand that they are ignoring the need to legislatively protect parents who will discuss the matter with their children even when they teach them to avoid the mistakes that are made by Government legislation.

Elected public servants, parliamentarians, have a task to frame laws and form policies that promote constructive public discussion, that protect those minorities who in their discussions may have to formulate dissent from what is presupposed in legislation. Nurturing Justice is not the first to have observed that the rhetoric of “marriage equality” advocates too often fudges and blurs the need for opened up discussion.

These are matters about our future on this planet because they have everything to do with procreation and bringing a new generation of children into the world and giving appropriate attention to our human nurturing responsibilities.

The way in which the “marriage equality” movement makes its political claims, ascribed with the media-endorsed aura of populist power it now commands, has had everything to do with the inability of the political parties that dominate our parliamentary landscape to develop comprehensive policies of “human body politics”. We might also say that a fundamental shift has occurred in the public sphere with respect to how ethical and moral debate is now shaped.

The term “LGBTI community” is common parlance. The media regularly refers to this community giving prominence to those claiming to be its spokespersons and with reference to this community’s members. But to ask: “What are we to understand by the use of this term ‘community’?” will, in all likelihood, be viewed as an avoidance strategy, an obscurantism that is blind to what is assumed to be self-evident.

Presumably, in this world-view, Government is given to us so we can make laws for ourselves that allow us to do what we want to do, so long as we are not hurting anyone by doing so. And so the media ascribes hero status to two elderly gentlemen who want to be considered as lawfully married before they die. They become a sentimental point of reference, as the ABC and other news outlets give expression to the extent to which neo-liberal libertarianism dominates the romantic mentality of its journalists. We tend to forget that an earlier generation of such couples sought acceptance on the ground that they were not a marriage and put their claim that they shouldn’t be rejected as if that was what they were wanting to be. Somehow such historical facts get lost in a later generation’s enthusiasm for what is popular and fashionable. Those kinds of anomalies are rife in the history of the movement and we have identified some of these on other occasions.

In terms of developing a Christian political option, there is only limited value in focusing attention upon such anomalies in the history of the movement for “gay rights”. What NJ should be trying to do instead is to give wise advice to Christian parents and school teachers concerning their nurturing of a new generation.

What we have unfolding before us is not so much the start of something, but the cumulative consequence of a cultural movement that began in earnest perhaps 50 years ago with what we now call “sexual liberation”. [Revd. Gavin Ashenden in his response to the recent capitulation of the Church of England synod to a neopagan view of sexuality has discussed this as an historical outcome of pastoral care formed by the psycho-therapy of Carl Rogers and C G Jung. See here]. We now confront the elaboration of a philosophical viewpoint in which sexual identity is assumed to be discovered by self-examination – it is not only assumed that human sexuality is an autonomous power. Hence: young adolescents, on their way to adult maturity, are being induced to ask themselves: “Who do I really prefer to have sex with?” In other words we are dealing with a subtle propaganda campaign that arises when consideration is no longer given to the definitive exposition Israel’s Messiah gave of the 6th commandment:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks covetously at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Christians make a big mistake if they insert the word “another” into their reading of this. And, I dare say that in our post 1960s mentality, shaped as it has been by popular culture and the increasingly subtle camera techniques of film and advertising that feed off sexual instincts, proclaiming this as “natural”, we find it very hard to understand how adultery could be committed within monogamous “heterosexual” marriage. But when Jesus says “but I say unto you” he suggests that the law as God’s good provision is violated if marriage partners treat each other, or allow themselves to be treated, as sexual objects for gratification (i.e. also violating the 10th commandment along the way; covetousness that is mutual does not cancel itself out). The positive side of Jesus’ teaching is that he affirms that it is within marriage where a husband and a wife seek Divine approval to disclose the “sexual identity” of the other. This is not gender-bending or anything so perverse; it is simply suggesting that what Jesus taught was in line with what Genesis 1 taught. Our human identity, male and female, is what we have been created to be and to disclose in our Creator and Redeemer’s image. We are those who carry in our bodies the distinctive signs of membership in God’s own family.


BCW 27.7.17



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