The Consequence: A Conclusion Without Any Arguments
The questions you may confront in this ongoing public debate are many and varied. This is one:
Q: Why are you opposed to “marriage equality”?
Of course, this question may arise in different contexts. Children may ask it of their parents. Actually, it’s possible that parents ask it of their children. To provide a brief answer will not be easy. What about this as an answer that keeps the discussion going:
A:In brief: the “marriage equality” movement is seeking a conclusion that will no longer have any arguments.
Q: Can you explain that view, further?
A: I’ll try. Currently the Marriage Act and its administration does not prevent people from publicly saying that the definition of marriage as given by the Act is wrong. I am yet to hear whether genuine freedom to live a life in dissent from the law will be preserved after the Act is changed to redefine marriage to comply with the “marriage equality” demand.
That explains in a nutshell the fears of many who say “No!”
Nurturing Justice is not attempting to suggest that the political argument that hitherto supported the Act’s definition of marriage is the last word on the matter (i.e. as “both sides” appeared to argue when they complied with a a Liberal-Christian civil religious understanding of marriage in their bi-partisan amendment of the Marriage Act which was passed in 2004). Our point here is that the public argument about marriage must remain open and so we are focusing attention upon the way the “marriage equality” movement closes down discussion of those opposed to its proposal. Instances of this “closing down” can be seen on all sides: it’s not just the Liberal-Coalition that manifests this so-dangerously-close-to-state-absolutism tendency here; the Labor Party leads the way with its commitment to same-sex marriage as a precondition for those standing as their parliamentary candidates post-2019. Seek it out. Look at what is coming down the line straight toward us! Get out of the way in principle, now.
This political movement – perhaps as much here as elsewhere o/s, although that remains to be fully examined – has not been prepared to disclose its view on the right to dissent from the dogmatically presupposed basis of its proposed amendment – and it thus also fails to give a full disclosure of what it proposes should be the comprehensive public policy consequences of such a change in definition.
Under the current law and its administration the human right to dissent from this part of our law, as it is formulated in the Act and administered in the application of public policy, is protected. The irony is that the “marriage equality” movement is loudest testimony to that. But by the demand that marriage be considered a human right, a “down-stream” consequence in the administration of the law is repeatedly foreshadowed by what the various spokespersons say about this proposed new definition. That they in the main do not reckon with that foreshadowing implies a public-legal blindness. And such blindness must have an impact upon any new legal understanding of dissent from the law. For these “marriage equality” advocates, the new definition of marriage must have a necessary impact upon the right to dissent from the law because the change as proposed seeks to overcome a what is claimed to be a deprivation if not violation of civil rights. Thus the law as it now stands is “accused” of being productive of “homophobia”. Therefore by definition the defence of the current definition of marriage in the Marriage Act must be an implicit violation of human rights and thus by definition to dissent from “marriage equality” is to argue against human rights and to be party to “homophobia”. This then is the “marriage equality” (dissenting) view and that blindness about dissent is not about to be changed consequent to the proposed change in the Marriage Act.
But nevertheless the right to dissent from that view is now well and truly in the balance!
This is the crisis we face. This is the legal and law-making problem as it now stands. And this is why Nurturing Justice strongly urges readers to desist from participation in the ABS survey. Make your view clear without getting embroiled in that confused and confusing device that has arisen from the decades-long failures of our two major “sides” in Parliament.
The law as it now stands, and is administered, has not stood in the way, nor prevented, the public argument of “marriage equality” dissent that the law as it stands is wrong. Civil unions can be held and can even be held as expressions of lawful dissent from the current Marriage Act. Nothing prevents these celebrations from being demonstrations of dissent.
And so, the “marriage equality” movement has repeatedly failed to explain how the proposed legislation amending the definition of lawful marriage will then stand in relation to the self-same civil right to dissent. If the definition of marriage is as the “marriage equality” movement demands, and is replaced by a definition that complies with the political view that marriage is a human right, the creature of the State, that individuals may enter upon giving fulfilling certain stipulated conditions, then the public and political view that this amended law is wrong, and unjust to marriage, will not only have to suffer the accusation of “homophobia” from defenders of the law but will be considered a dissent that is in violation of human rights.
There is also a profound wedging process at work here. I had wondered how it was, given the Leader of the Opposition’s vitriol at the Prime Minister when the latter announced the ABS survey, why it was that Labor seems to want to participate in its public debate. Then I recalled that from 2019 any Labor Party candidate across the country will be required, as a matter of the party’s electoral platform, to support same-sex marriage. In other words … no, I’ll leave that for readers to make their judgment. Then it will be a matter of a conclusion without any arguments.
We began by saying that questions about this political debate will also be asked by children of parents. Let’s be frank: justice is certainly not being done to the place of sexual intercourse within marriage. And will parents who teach their children that they have come into this life as a consequence of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman – productive of the closest biotic union we can experience – be the next who stand accused of “homophobia” because of their parental explanation of the God-given wonder of sexual intercourse, or procreation, or conception? We are entering a new era of politics and a Christian political option will need a clear and comprehensive conception concerning all things political and that also means all things biotic.
If any reader is unconvinced about the blatant bias in public reporting of the “marriage equality” polemic, they might ponder the manner in which ABC recently reported on the launching of the “Coalition for Marriage”. Not only was the article’s photographs another instance of ABC “flying the flag”, but to read the article is simply to read the journalist’s attempt to turn an attempt to give a serious alternative in the public debate about “marriage equality” into yet another piece of “marriage equality” propaganda – as if readers did not already know, and hadn’t been repeatedly flailed with the mantra: “Oh yes but there are so many Christians who have other views than that.” So why not give a separate article to the views of the Christian minister who is reported by them to have gone close to ridiculing some of his brothers and sisters in the faith? There’s the rub. If the ABC did that it might have to give space to the criticism of the view that this Reverend fellow is actually advocating, and feature an explanation of how Biblical teaching repudiates “wind-vane” Christianity. Is the ABC going to be that balanced?
Not only this Reverend gent but also ourselves might do well, at this point, to hear what the Apostle John reported of Jesus teaching that so upset those who wanted to align themselves with him. Take John’s Gospel 12:39-43 for starters:
“While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said [such] things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
The dialectics of propaganda in this debate are subtle and clearly many are not really wanting a debate – they want a conclusion without any arguments. And thus we also conclude that that is what the “marriage equality” movement is straining towards.
Yesterday’s post “And so we have it!” certainly suggests that with the major parties capitulating to “marriage equality” demands there are massive issues at stake. They are so momentous that it is well to stand aside and refuse to play the silly and farcical game of the Liberal Coalition parties with their national survey. It is a thoroughly confused strategy – unprincipled at root – and likely to generate still more political confusion and more unprincipled parliamentary manipulation.
Our advice: stay well clear. Keep your head and refuse to be badgered by this nonsense.
So with that dissent we are still in need of perspective, a light to lighten the path ahead. Here is my effort to suggest some things about the way in which Matthew gave the early church teaching of Jesus that helps us reconsider our membership in the “kingdom of heaven” in this 2017 context. It not only helps us see what is crucial for our everyday life, as we come to terms with a new and upcoming generations of children, but also for how we should see the connection between our contributions to the nurturing of these generations and the manner in which public life is formed (and we are taxed).
Matthew 18: 1-7
Here follows a series of exchanges where the disciples of Jesus begin to probe Jesus further, since his teaching is so obviously fresh and new and gives raise to all kinds of thinking that hitherto has not been thought about.
Jesus has begun to “open the eyes of the blind” – particularly of his disciples. Yes, their Kingdom of Heaven responsibilities include their task as those who live in a political realm, but not necessarily as they have come to construe it. His teaching instructs them to be motivated to give freely as God has given freely to them (Matt 10:8). This is part of a divinely mandated reciprocity that cannot be withheld from by the disciple from rulers even if these rulers sadly neglect their subjects by recourse to pre-emptive powers that claim ownership of the stewardship that has been given them by God.
And so the question of true greatness – albeit in a context of power-mongered demand for tribute – is raised.
Who commands immediate respect in God’s Kingdom, Lord?
Jesus’ answer turns the world upside down. These disciples were being forcibly induced to view it in another way. It is as if Jesus’ replies:
Oh I have been wondering when you might ask that question. It’s so important. Well done for asking. Here’s the answer – this lad, this lass, here, this three year-old who is still so much reliant upon being held in mum and dad’s arms – this child is the one to whom you, with all your adult sophistication, with all your tax reduction schemes, with all your skilful apprecticeships in various occupations, with all your learning from synagogue and school, with all the understanding you have gleaned from your parents and elders – this is the person who must command first and foremost respect in your life. And you know, unless you turn around and face this reality, and stop blundering on in your quest to command respect and in deed become a child, just like this one, there’s simply no way you can set out on the paths of God’s kingdom. This is because the pathways of God’s Kingdom are especially reserved for those are humble, who humble themselves like this child – get to know and sing, and keep on singing Psalm 131. Being one to one such child is being open to me – to me, your Lord, Master, Rabbi, the Son of Man, the one you are so keen to confess as Israel’s Messiah.
In his exposition of the tribute that His Father expects those associated with His Son to pay tribute to the Imperial Government – lest there be cause for offense. What Jesus says to his disciples leads on to what he says here about the consequences – the offense, the scandal – of not giving first and foremost respect to children.
More and more in our reading of this Gospel we have evidence of Matthew’s way of developing his narrative. As he develops the brief discussion about the paying of tribute, it is as if Matthew says to us “Oh and that word offense (σκάνδαλον) in the context of Jesus’ response about tribute, that reminds of this other time when Jesus used that word.” This seems to be part of the way Matthew maintains continuity in his story-telling narrative.
We see here a pertinent question about following Jesus, following Jesus in a political context requiring the payment of taxes, following Jesus by looking forward as we pay these taxes to how they will be put to good use, following Jesus by reckoning with the Kingdom of heaven’s deep, persistent and ongoing concern for how the next generation is being respected as it should be in our lives, following Jesus by giving respect to the ongoing human task of bringing children into God’s creation and nurturing them. He reckons with the problems, the offenses, the scandals, the sins.
The implication is that we are simply not on the same page as our Father in heaven if we do not understand His earnest desire of us as disciples of His Son to ascribe first-and foremost respect to who we are because of our being associated with His Son. it is as if Jesus continues:
And this all means that you are those He has given to me, you, you as His children too, just like this child here.
That then leads Jesus to a warning that burned the ears of those attending.
In God’s Kingdom any lack of first and foremost respect to any of these, whoever they may be, by actions that throw a hurdle of offense onto their path, is simply a disaster for the one doing so. The consequences of missing this point, even if by a concerted effort of giving offense in response to offense being given, is, quite frankly, to miss out on life itself. You might as well be drowned, well and truly.
Sure, says Jesus, these offences, these historically constructed hurdles that stand in the way of a new generation’s proper respect, are bound to come, but don’t go contributing, paying tribute, to these scandals. Keep well away.
And the way of keeping well away, presumably, is a life in keeping with Jesus’ teaching – because He is God’s own Son – and this teaching nurtures a new generation of those, just like us, only now as we take up our nurturing task, we become moreso like what we are becoming to be (an awkward construction admittedly but also used by the Apostle Paul who had to learn from Jesus how to forego his former offense at the Gospel – 2 Cor 3:18). This is the way to keep on identifying ourselves as children in God’s Kingdom.
This account would assist the young church in what their task was in relation to what Jesus had done and taught in his ministry. The sadness of the disciples at his prophesy that he was going to be killed – like John the Baptist – was no forerunner to an anger that would be oriented to rebellion about the Romans. This part of Matthew’s Gospel gives sound precedents to how Jesus expected his followers, not only to pay their taxes, but also to keep on encouraging the raising families even if it were in circumstances of alien imperial rule and oppression.
AND SO WE HAVE IT!
The view of Nurturing Justice on the decades-long demand for “same-sex marriage” has been repeatedly articulated by these posts. They have been consistent since 2006. Our Senate Submission Update of 2009 is the self-same view we put forward now.
The critical issues raised in that above-mentioned submission have never been addressed by advocates of same-sex marriage. And we have also often noted how genuine political debate has been suppressed by “both sides”. We have surmised that this is because there is (still) a widespread misperception that marriage is somehow “private”, an institution that is simply constructed out of the human desires of the two persons involved. In previous posts – in Everyday Justice in Conversation 1, 2, 3 & 4 and in other recent posts – we have raised other questions that also remain unanswered.
I am not suggesting that all political activists should now trek to NJ – I probably couldn’t handle the traffic if they did. But I am saying the arguments for “marriage equality” get weaker and weaker as time goes on – Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten and their respective political cliques seem to be blithely ignorant of the inner weaknesses of this movement.
The view of Nurturing Justice is that the proposed survey to be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is nothing other than an attempt by the Prime Minister and Cabinet to over-step their Parliamentary responsibilities in order to use that public office in the service of their political parties. This tricky device blurs what needs to be kept distinct, particularly in this matter where their parties have persistently ignored making coherent policy with respect to marriage. Since 2004 when a bi-partisan amendment to the Marriage Act was passed, both sides have defected and have failed to explain their party’s change of mind. Their electoral platforms have, for decades, ignored setting coherent public policy before their electors.
As political party leaders – who also just happen to be elected parliamentarians with solemn oaths to uphold the constitution – they have now decided that this over-reaching use of Government power is the way to avoid further splits and defections within their tattered ranks. Remarkably they have got the nod for this over-reach from the Opposition. I wonder why? And what will the consequence of this compliance mean when the other “side” comes to power.
It might be valid for the Liberal and National Parties (or even the ambiguous Labor Party) to commission such a survey, in order to determine their party policies, but they should pay for it themselves. (And simply honing on the bogus issue of “same-sex marriage” or “marriage equality” is not to develop coherent legislative programme to protect marriage, family, household and friendship – that’s the political context in which respectful and open discussion about same-sex households needs to take place.)
For the Government to engage in this exercise of naked political engineering, and having it paid for it with public funds, (instead of party funds) is nothing other than a scandalous misappropriation. Therefore, the survey as proposed, is a political conjuring trick. Our advice is that those seeking a Christian political option should steer clear of it. Let it come into your mailbox – you can hardly prevent that, I guess. But keep the ballot paper as a souvenir of a populist nonsense that provoked you to engage in a quiet act of principled political dissent.
As it stands this postal vote is the classic face-saving device – obviously, when the Liberal Party finds itself having to be part of legislation that changes the Marriage Act in the way that has been demanded, the party will be able to say, albeit feebly to its “traditional voters”, that it kept faith or tried to keep faith with its election promise. But the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in accommodating this manipulative ruse is bringing shame upon our entire system of public governance.
Whether this is only the beginning of a “new dawn” in Australian politics, in which Parliament will be cow-towed to give further symbolic “thumbs up” endorsements to global neo-liberal populist movements, remains to be seen. But, make no mistake, our system of public governance is certainly well down the track in unbridled populism and Christian citizens who are seeking diligently to find the path of true engagement in civil society and for the sake of public justice for this Commonwealth should take the opportunity to get political experience in expressing law-abiding, principled Christian dissent. The way is clearly indicated if we have ears to hear and hearts to heed the call for genuine love of God above all and of our neighbour as ourselves.
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Here We Go Again – Confusion Reigns
“Under the Government’s plan, a postal vote asking if the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry will be sent out to everyone on the electoral roll.” (ABC web site 9 August 2017).
This is so naive and so ignorant of the public-legal matter itself, and of the way in which our elected Parliaments have a major player in misshaping public understanding for so long. It is politically embarrassing.
It is wilfully ignorant of the way people are currently using the term “marriage” in their every-day discussions. This is a pragmatic device fraught with deep contradictions. And these contradictions are not going to go away, whatever the outcome of “letting-the-people-have-their-say”. It is a kite-strategy, we recall, initially flown a couple of weeks ago, by the newly installed “multi-department” Minister for Home Affairs.
Nurturing Justice is certainly not commending this latest populist initiative. It is more an attempt to hold a political coalition together than it is about finding just policies in relation to a problem generated by a populist surge that is not going to go away any time soon.
Yesterday, we identified the initial step that is being avoided by “both sides” as they continue to avoid elaborating their political vision for how marriage, family, and household matters, if not also friendship, contribute to our national life.
This unprecedented (voluntary) initiative confirms that the Liberal-National “side” of politics is no longer a coalition of parties, as it bends itself backwards on its public-relations path to shore up electoral support for elected members of its “side” as the next election beckons. Such political self-interest at the expense of the national interest can only confirm the political and legal misunderstanding of the current state of affairs. And meanwhile deep factionalism still tears it apart. Genuine public discussion about marriage, if not of the institution itself, is made hostage to this political mob’s fortune.
We will say it one more time (not for the last time): read what two competent jurists say about the complex legal situation we currently confront in the administration of marriage law across the Commonwealth, Ask yourself whether a citizens free postal vote is going to do anything more than confuse a confused situation. Ask the couple who have moved in next door or your own adult children who have entered into permanent living arrangements how they see their relationship and their entitlements and how their relationship functions in relation to legal requirements).
As it stands the key phrase in the news report – “[whether] the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry” – is so fully ambiguous it may well provoke many to opt out. The wording strongly suggests that the current state of affairs in everyday life is being ignored. The formulation assumes that somehow the current legislation prevents freedom of speech, if not freedom of association. And it does no such thing. When has the definition of lawful marriage ever prevented same-sex couples from saying they are married, from referring to each other as marriage partners as thousands of de facto (“hetero” if not same-sex) couples have done for decades?
Moreover, whichever way this search for a legislative path goes, the presumption of those initiating this ballot is that the nation’s view on this matter can be properly gauged by it. It cannot. The issue presupposes a gross falsehood, namely that the political parties – via their receipt of public funding for elections – have educated the electorate already about the state of affairs governed by the Marriage Act. That is the offensiveness of this initiative, Mr Dutton. To send this out to all registered voters is to assume that the voters are competent to make a judgement in public-legal terms, when in fact they have to a large degree rendered incompetent by the studied self-interested negligence of our major political parties since at least 2004 (we’ll only refer to the mass media en passant here).
The above formulation assumes that the State by law prevents same-sex couples from asserting their belief that they are married.
The above formulation does nothing to challenge the implicit Statism in the populist view that marriage is a creature of Government. It is a confirmation that Parliament does not now know how to politically answer the accusation that the definition of lawful marriage in the Marriage Act, which both sides endorsed in Marriage Act amendments from 2004, is an implicit violation of the human rights of same-sex couples. Some imply that such a definition of lawful in the Act is implicitly homophobic. Parliament has long since given up the task of defending the bi-partisan changes “both sides” endorsed in 2004 to the Marriage Act. If they are now no longer wanting to support that bi-partisanship, why aren’t they busy explaining themselves? The answer is: they are too busy “running for cover”. Mr Shorten’s current anger at the Government with predictions of an efflorescence of hate speech are merely a political cover-up of his own party’s contribution to public confusion. When has his party ever explained its pragmatic U-Turn on this matter, let alone his “side’s” failure to have the matter properly and publicly debated?
Do you believe that the current definition of lawful marriage as contained in the Marriage Act represents a violation of human rights?
We have suggested that this is the question that needs to be asked of this matter. But Labor as much as the Liberal-National coalition simply do not trust the electorate on this matter to raise it in these terms. For it part the electorate gives many signs that it is paying them back in like manner. These parties in their elevated privilege continue production of “both sides” core and non-core electoral agitprop. And they are so eager, so very eager, to display their post-modern credentials even as the “absolutes” of their respective “sides” dissolve in their rhetoric (ref the definition of post-modernity according to Jean-Francois Lyotard as incredulity to all meta-narratives). Labor’s absolutes are now “civil rights”; for the Liberal Coalition it is their tattered banner of “Vox Populi Vox Dei”.
There’s more to be said. For instance, what role does a Government have in relation to language? Can definitions of terms be legislated? Will some read the ballot question in terms of whether it is Government that can determine the meaning of the words we use? [While the Christian church has no mandate to depart from the teaching of Jesus about marriage, what it is, see here the wise words of N T Wright on the political danger of asking Government to legislate to define the meaning of words.] Further posts on how and why the reform of political parties is necessary for our ongoing state-crafting will follow. It is and will continue to be an important part of our everyday conversation about justice.
Beyond Individualism’s Parliamentary Dead-End
Out of this current political mess – will there be a plebiscite? will there be a voluntary postal vote? will parliament have a conscience vote? – Australia’s polity is faced with its now perpetual inner weakness. Our system of public governance is in trouble. It is not so much the Commonwealth Constitution and it is not only what we have inherited in our system of parliamentary democracy as that has been morphed into its current neo-liberal mould since the 1970s.
The Constitution has to some extent served pretty well to maintain a workable federal system of antipodean representative democracy since the Colonial Governments federated in 1901. The subsequent life of the Commonwealth of Australia has witnessed a viable experiment in co-ordinated, federated state-crafting of these far-flung British Colonies have come together politically on this massive , ancient desert island continent, with Tasmania and other islands too. Yes, it took far too long to extend justice political rights to the descendants of those who have peopled this turf for thousands of years. And there is still cumulative injustice built into the structures of our polity requiring continued legislative redress. Australia is a regional power although, despite the Mabo judgement of 1992, still a long way from proper political acknowledgement of our South West Pacific location as a polity that is also Melanesian! We rarely think of that even as the Torres Strait Islander flag has flown officially, also from local council offices across the nation, for 25 years!
Yes, there is the emerging question of whether the mentality of “white Australia” has somehow reappeared, morphed into a mythic nationalist “society”, as loud and belligerent defenders of “Aussie values” find difficulty in explaining what those values are and fail to explain in cogent political terms how our system of government should respond to our political community’s amazing kaleidscopic diversity. There is continued “home affairs” nonsense about the need for migrants to be fluent in English even as most of us continue our day-to-day lives in blithe ignorance of the first Australians who speak in many different languages, and some of whom would not pass an English test. The anomalies can stack up once we go looking for them.
But now? As we wrote yesterday, one initial step to genuine political reform is for those who have aligned with the two major political “sides” to face up to the political reality they have given us. The Parliamentary difficulties we now face are due to a continued failure of the Liberal and National coalition and Labor parties to justly form public debate in the public interest. Their failure makes genuine Australian state-crafting from here on problematic. We are increasingly susceptible to what may well be a populist demagoguery. These parties of the “two sides” are broken cisterns that no longer hold water to slake the political thirst of citizens on a political landscape that has been subjected to their self-interest “scorched-earth”, winner-takes-all politics.
But it can’t just be the “coming out” of individual members of these “electoral machines” or those who vote for these elite public relations firms, publicizing their dissent, crossing the floor, quitting to form new micro-parties or whatever it may be. It is the parties themselves, as political associations, that need to reform themselves by stepping back from their ongoing misshaping of our polity. How are they to do this? How are they to enact an ordinance of political self-denial and stop pretending that the future of this country’s parliaments is in the direction that they continue to set, from their politically privileged position, even as they career along, taking the country with them into … ?
The first political step of these parties is to reckon with the fact that the Commonwealth of Australia does not actually need their political machines as they continue their false claims to represent all Australians. (This first step is actually reminiscent of the difficult task of bringing genuine reformation to a thoroughly compromised Christian church! Not so very different – similar difficulty with dogmatic religiosity.) This first step will need further explanation, which subsequent posts will explore and then set out further possible steps.
Suffice to say that it is a political step requiring courage and the sad thing is that there is every indication from the Parliamentary leadership of both sides that such a step is unthinkable, simply not on their horizons at the present time. They present themselves to their electors as two fellows who are simply unable to see what is happening to them. Theirs is a politics of obsession that Australia “needs” them, that somehow their public lives will be gross failure if they change course.
The children’s story “Bill and Ben” has more coherence than the joint sounds of the aria being sung by “Both Sides of Politics”, with lead singing from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men of “both sides”, with now a middle-ground competition to see who can displace Weed – Will it be Greens, One Nation, Xenophon or others? – growing up between them.
It will not be an easy for the political parties to take such a step since they identify themselves so rigidly with this “both sides” dogmatism. They need to be reminded that “both sides” are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor are their parties. But once the step is taken and the political shambles faced – to the mess that they too have brought us to as a polity – then we can begin to address the deep political issues that confront us.
This will mean discussing politically the significance of other political views diametrically opposed to our own. It will mean examining the detail of well-elaborated legislative programmes that arise from the diversity of political perspectives, those that arise from our political opponents, and finding ways to reckon with their just points and dissenting carefully and forcibly when we are convinced they are wrong.
It will thus mean a recalibration of what it means to embark upon political compromise in legislation, taking seriously the ways of life that differ from our own and the ways of understanding political responsibility that are antithetical to our own understanding. It will include, we hope, a coherent Christian political option that seeks a legislative programme of justice for all. It may take decades but this then would be what Nurturing Justice has in mind for a Christian political option among the various political options that are evidently present in our polity today. With such an approach to our political responsibilities we can hope to then set about the task of reforming our system of parliamentary representation in order to extend due respect to all citizens. We need to refresh our commitment to a thorough and fair system of proportional representation in parliamentary representation.
Unfortunately, our state-crafting responsibilities are now hostage to the perceived electoral fortunes of “two sides” dogmatically incapable of reckoning with other ways of organising Parliamentary representation and the making of laws. They have effectively given up the task of state-crafting and instead have assumed that they are the ones to possess sufficient elasticity of political principles to speak for everyone (which they obviously cannot). And do they not present themselves with an arrogance to the citizens who elect them, that we should only ever give form to our part in the God-given state-crafting task when either of them are in control of the Commonwealth’s legislative apparatus. This view needs to be dispensed with.
Our subsequent posts will speculate on further steps that these two “sides” should take. The political reality staring them in the face is evident in their lack of comprehensive legislative programmes and policies to put to electors. They both need to appreciate that their future contribution is not in winning elections but in showing the way to genuine political contribution for political parties and for justice for all.
Eight Ways to Ask: So What Should the Actual Question Be?
Apologies again, but my last post brought forward news that there was some disillusionment within the ranks of the Liberal Party’s Christian “faction”. This does not surprise us but Nurturing Justice realises that there are many, perhaps some among our readers, who are feeling “under the pump” about the political allegiances they have hitherto maintained. It is with such readers in mind that we continue to ask for forbearance of other readers who may well think enough has been said on this matter. And so we continue with our “Everyday Justice in Political Conversation” series. Here we summarise some of the things we have been saying – yes, again and again – since launching NJ in 2006. We might say that our aim, at this point, is focused upon encouraging ongoing Christian political conversation.
We have identified the problematic facing the Federal Parliament in relation to the ongoing political debate concerning the western liberal/libertarian demand that same-sex couples who want to consider themselves as “married” be recognised as such within the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act. We have also pointed out that such legislation whenever it comes – whether there be a plebiscite, a voluntary postal vote, or whatever political arrangement to suit the demands of the major parties in Federal Parliament – will not be the end of the matter.
Here we list a series of questions that might assist readers in their efforts to engage their fellows in political discussion, whether formal or informal, in everyday situations, whether it be of a plebiscite or a postal vote (a Government-sponsored poll), or about the impending legislative mistake.
1. First Possible Point for Lunch Room Discussion: Given the competent analysis of Parkinson and Aroney concerning the current highly confused state of the administration of marriage law across the Commonwealth, shouldn’t public debate begin with the major parties – the Liberal and National coalition parties and the Labor party – conceding publicly to us, citizens, from whom they gain their place in our political life, that it is THEY who have created this contentious public situation by a concerted decades-long political avoidance of coherent public policies on marriage, family, household and friendship as part of our public life. They need to be confronted by this political fact of their making because they did not want to lose votes (i.e. this is not fake news and the major mass media in its self-serving “balanced” approach is also complicit in this) and so they have persistently neglected to adequately connect to voters on these vital matters, matters central to our national stewardship and political-economy. Politics is about these matters; politics can never avoid them and to try to do so, as they have consistently tried to do, means our entire system of public governance has become rife with the problems that are now so complex that they will not go away with short-term plebiscites, nomenclature changes in Marriage Acts nor from the results of opinion polls. Such honest admission of political failure (if not of their “side’s” electoral cowardice) might breathe new life into what is now a confused, confusing contentious political situation. And then, when that fact of political negligence sinks in, we might be in a better place to discuss this matter.
2. Second Possible Point for Discussion over the Back Fence: A principled issue that should be aired in a plebiscite or a postal vote on “marriage equality” is this: should marriage be a civil right? Should Australia take a case to the UN to add marriage the rights listed in the UDHR (and ICCPR)? This way, when the UDHR is amended by the UN, the Federal Parliament can legislate to include this amendment in our own polity’s affirmation of the UDHR.
3. Third Possible Point for Casual Conversation in the Street: Given the possible situation in which the Marriage Act will be amended to allow same-sex relationships to be defined as “marriage” how should the union currently defined as marriage (i.e the union for life of a man to a woman to the exclusion of all others) be justly and appropriately recognised in public law for what it is i.e. in legislation, public policy and in all the dimensions of the administration of public justice? How is public policy going to avoid the implied suggestion that such “conventional marriage” will henceforth be viewed merely as a variation on whatever it is that a same-sex relationship may claim to be?
4. Fourth Possible Point for Dinner Table Discussion: Are the citizens of this country sufficiently educated in law and in public policy to know what they are suggesting when they vote one way or the other that the Marriage Act should or should not be changed?
5. Fifth Possible Point for Quiet Discussion on Public Transport: Is it the task of Government to determine how words are defined? Is the proposed change in the Marriage Act merely a debate about Government determining terminology?
6. Sixth Possible Point When You Discuss This Issue With Your Electorate’s MP: What is your policy and your party’s policy of the well-publicised view of the Masha Gessen, held by many in this country as well, that a vote for same-sex marriage can only make sense if it is one step on the way toward the abolition of marriage itself. And in this context not only questions are raised about justice for children, and just procreation, but about what those who have steadily pushed this change world-wide – that is not just the views of citizens who may have to vote in a plebiscite or a postal vote – have in mind with this intended global change of universal scope? We are not just talking about Chicken Licken’s impending failed prophecy. Masha Gessen has it in mind that marriage be abolished and there are supporters of “marriage equality” who believe likewise. So let’s hear what the political parties have to say about this. When are they going to develop comprehensive policies about marriage, family, household for the consideration of electors. When, in other words, are they going to start being political parties (again)?
7. Seventh Point as One Sits There Looking Out Over the Horizon and at Prayer: How should I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, respect marriage in adherence to his teaching, and not lose my nerve as the proposed changes to this nation’s public governance are implemented? How do I remain a faithful member of his church when Christian leaders the world over are too frequently showing themselves to be in love with public affirmation rather than seeking the approval of the God they claim to serve? (John 12:43; Galatians 1:10). How then does a Christian respond to fellow Christians who are losing their way in relation to this vexing issue that is not going away?
Enough for this moment … where is the 8th? you ask. That’s for you to think about.