Kevin Rudd has caused a stink. His defection to the pro marriage-equality camp has the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) up in arms. In their media release today the warnings are dire.
According to the ACL, the consequences of marriage equality in Australia will include (i) the creation of a new ‘stolen generation’, (ii) the inclusion of gay sex ‘mechanics’ in our school curriculum, (iii) the destruction of Christian businesses, and (iv) the prospect of public servants and pastors being ‘hauled into court’ and prosecuted for their convictions. They end with the declaration that ‘no government has the right to create these vulnerabilities for the church-going 20% of the population in order to allow the 0.2% of the population who will take advantage of this to redefine marriage.’
It’s a frightening read and, I suspect, is intended to be so. Members of this lobby group are clearly troubled by the prospect of change to our definition of marriage and genuinely believe their fears are well grounded. Whatever I make of these assertions, the ACL has the right to voice them and to do so as passionately and directly as they can. They speak for their constituency. What troubles me is not so much what they assert but who they infer that constituency to be.
In today’s press interviews and media release, the ACL speaks broadly of ‘the Christian constituency.’ It infers, first, that there is such a thing, a uniform Christian community—perhaps that church-going 20% of the national population or the 64% of Australians who ‘declare themselves to be Christians’— that stands united against marriage equality and, second, that the ACL is their preferred public voice. This is not the case.
According to its own website, the ACL does not profess or presume to be ‘a peak body’ for the church. It is governed by a board of eight men—three conservative Anglicans, one Catholic, two Baptists, one Pentecostal, and one from an independent fundamentalist church in Toowoomba. None of them are appointed by their denominations. In deciding on policy positions, the ACL bases its decisions on ‘orthodox historical understandings of Biblical Christian teaching.’ It does so in consultation with unnamed ‘senior church leaders’ and ‘Christian subject matter experts’ but is clear that its board of eight men is its ‘final arbiter’ in all policy matters.
I do not know how many Christians the ACL represents. Their own publicity does not make those numbers available and they have no mechanism for membership. The only hint is that should I choose to ‘register my support’ with their organization I can add my voice to the ‘thousands across Australia’ who have already done so. What I do know is that no matter how many there are, on this matter I am not one of them.
Despite the posturing of the ACL, I want people to know that there are many sincere ‘church-going’ Christians around this country for whom the ACL does not speak. Not at all. We find their assertions and fear mongering as offensive and alienating as do many others. We may not be members of the Kevin Rudd fan club, but as fellow Christians we welcome Rudd’s support on this important issue.