Friday, September 7, 2012

Abandonment and same-sex marriage

Julia Gillard has today announced she will not be giving the keynote speech at the Australian Christian Lobby next month after ACL Managing Director, Jim Wallace, compared same-sex marriage to smoking.

After Julia Gillard's withdrawal from the conference, Wallace said that he thought this would be seen as an abandonment of the Christian constituency.
I'm a Christian. And I do feel abandoned. Not by Julia Gillard, though, but by Jim Wallace. But then, I've felt abandoned by Jim Wallace and the ACL for quite some time.
When a group has a name like the Australian Christian Lobby, I would think it should reflect the values of all Christians. Instead, it often seems to be very narrowly focused on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage - issues that not all Christians are even agreed upon. It also fails to seriously deal with issues that many people do believe are extremely important because of their Christian values - such as social justice, the environment, asylum seekers.
Not only does the ACL fail to reflect the issues that a lot of Christians care about, but its strong media profile gives the wider society the impression that most Christians care about the things the ACL cares about. When the ACL spends more time talking about same-sex marriage and abortion, rather than social justice, poverty and ecology, then it should not surprise us if many people believe all Christians care more about the former than the latter. And that's simply not the case.
I don't only feel abandoned by Jim Wallace and the ACL, but I feel they are misrepresenting me as a Christian.
If Jim Wallace wants to speak against same-sex marriage, that's fine. And I can understand why his Christian values would lead him to believe that same-sex marriage is not okay. And I also do believe that he has a right to state his views about same-sex marriage, which are informed by his Christian beliefs. 
But Mr Wallace needs to remember that he is acting as a spokesperson for the Christian community (even if not a truly representative one). When he compares smoking to same-sex marriage and suggests that homosexuality is bad for someone's health, his words reflect badly on all Christians. And what he says also has consequences.
I would have liked to hear what Julia Gillard had to say to the ACL. It would have been interesting to hear how her policies address the issues that Christians care about - and I suspect she would have a much broader idea of the issues Christians care about than Jim Wallace.
But I also understand why she pulled out. And quite honestly, I think she made the right choice. Jim Wallace's comments were offensive. And I really don't think she had a choice.
But now we have lost that opportunity to hear the Prime Minister speak to Christians. Mr Wallace has also probably made it more difficult for Christian voices to be heard on any political issue.
I believe Christians should be allowed to speak for or against same-sex marriage. And I think we need to hear voices on both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, these latest comments by Wallace have not contributed to that debate. They were so offensive that rather than promoting dialogue, they've shut down communication.
While I don't agree with Christians who are against same-sex marriage, I also don't want Christian views to be completely sidelined. Our ideas about marriage are informed by our religious and/or ideological views. We all get our ideas about marriage (and a number of other political and societal issues) from somewhere. Everybody has beliefs. And they always influence how we see things. We therefore can't say that opinions aren't valid simply because someone has religious beliefs. And I want those religious beliefs (and other beliefs) to be part of the conversation.
But in order to be part of the conversation, we have to treat others with respect. This involves respecting not just other beliefs, or other interpretations of Christian beliefs, but the people behind those beliefs. We must always treat people with love and compassion, whether they agree with us or not.
We also need to recognise that Christianity is not the authoritative or only important voice in the discussion. It is just one voice. Not everybody is going to agree with it. And not all Christians are going to speak with the one voice either. We no longer get to say, 'The bible says this' and think that means everybody should agree with it.
If we want people to listen to the Christian voice, then we have to listen to what people with different views have to say and we have to respect different ways of seeing things. And we also need to realise when we offend people, they're not going to be that interested in talking to us anymore. What we need in the same-sex debate is not preaching, but dialogue. It's a multi-way conversation. And that always relies on mutual respect. We need to respect others and their points of view if we want them to respect our point of view.
And if it is a conversation, then the LGBT community need to be at the centre of that conversation. They are the ones who are most affected by this. For many of us, it's a moral or ethical issue. For them, it's about their loves and their lives. They need to be listened to.
As I started with abandonment, let me finish with it. God said he would never leave us nor forsake us. I believe that should be the motto of the Church. The Church should never abandon anyone. Yet unfortunately, I think quite often the Church has abandoned the LGBT community. We've pushed them to the side and pointed fingers at them rather than embracing them as part of the Church. We've quite often acted as though we don't care about them. They've become a political issue, not a group of people who deserve our love and compassion. And Jim Wallace's latest comments probably only serve to increase those feelings of abandonment.
Whatever our feelings about same-sex marriage, we must never leave nor forsake homosexual people. But in order to do that, we need to talk to them, we need to listen to their concerns, we need to understand their hopes and dreams and we need to treat them with respect. Everybody deserves that. And everybody deserves to be embraced and welcomed. And that's how the conversation starts.

If you are interested in more details on what Jim Wallace said:

In a debate with Christine Milne over same-sex marriage, Jim Wallace said:

"I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years."
"The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke.
"But what I'm saying is we need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems and ... normalising the lifestyle by the attribution of marriage, for instance, has to be considered in what it does encouraging people into it." (from:
Today, Jim Wallace issued a media release, where he said he was not comparing homosexuality to smoking, but again repeated his belief that homosexuality carries health risks.
His media release stated that:
“If we warn against smoking because it carries health dangers, we should also be warning young people in particular about activity which clearly carries health risks.”
 “As I said yesterday, I am deeply saddened by the human suffering that is behind the poor health data of the gay community.
“This can only be addressed by looking at the real issues that cause it, not by changing the definition of marriage and certainly not by vilifying those with a different view to the activists." (from:

1 comment:

  1. Ah, but Christians in the Bible did abandon.

    Read 1Cor5. When sin became "normal," the righteous rejected it. God abandons those who sin over to a depraved mind - Rom 1.



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