Marriage equality and ‘the Christian constituency’

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.

16 Comments

  1. I am another Minister of religion that the ACL does NOT speak for. I commented on their article on their web site, but have been censored.

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  2. The ACL are nut-jobs, but the failure of Christians who believe in decency to form a simliar organisation has given all the media ground to the ACL who discredit the lot of us. If you leave a vacuum, some nut-job will fill it.

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  3. I agree with all you have said Simon. I’m a Pentecostal Christian and the ACL doesn’t speak for me. And like Eileen I have left comments on their website in the past which have been censored. It doesn’t matter how respectfully a comment is made, if it is not in full agreement with their position it is censored. Not only that, but I have then been ‘blocked’ from making future comments. Intelligent reasonable discussion is not welcome!

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  4. Love your work Sim! So glad I can count on friends and scholars such as you to articulate some truth about these important issues. ACL will never speak for me!

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  5. They do not speak for me either, a former Baptist Pastor, now retired. I simply quoted two Bible texts on their FB page. They were censored and I was prevented from posting there in future. There were 1 Cor 5:12-13 “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” It is called cognitive dissonance. It is also called bigotry.

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  6. Hi Simon
    I agree with most of what you say. And I don’t agree with everything ACL says. I agree also it shouldn’t be fear moungering, and careful in what it says.
    But I don’t doubt that almost all of what they are saying will happen has actually happened in other countries. The “stolen generation” might be to far though.
    On Kevin, I’m not actually sure I know anything Christian idea he believes in.

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  7. Well said Simon and others. I am always pleased when I hear this sentiment from grass roots Christians, and pastors as it gives me hope that Australia may not sink into the polarised hate-fest that we see elsewhere.
    But what I would really like is to see official statements from the various synods and councils of your churches saying clearly and unequivocally that the ACL does not represent them in any way and that they do not agree with its statements. Our politicians need to be told by the churches that they shouldn’t regard the ACL as anything more than a bigoted fringe group.

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  8. Thank you Simon. The arrogance with which ACL promotes the impression that they are THE Christian voice and attempts to stifle reasoned discussion is proof that they are not Christian at all. I am a retired Baptist Pastor; they they do not speak for me.

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  9. I am a Christian and I believe in Jesus’s greatest teaching which is…love. I am with you Simon and with all of us who only want to share our commitment with the one we love.

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  10. Nice one Simon. The ACL’s voice makes it increasingly difficult for those who don’t share their views to use the ‘Christian’ self-descriptor. Not that the word wasn’t in a world of trouble anyway! If the ACL’s policies and viewpoints are Christian then, put simply, we follow a different Christ. Muslims I’ve spoken to get caught in a situation where they can’t condemn those who practice terrorism in Allah’s name because they aren’t allowed to judge follow Muslims. It’s the same with Christians. Many are afraid to speak out against the crap the ACL speaks because we feel we’re judging our ‘brothers and sisters’. But Jesus had no problem berating the crap out of Pharisees who carried on like the ACL. And those who care about the Christ in them should (like those in mainstream society who speak out against the ACL) be righteously bloody angry with them. Jesus was also pretty hot on people who used God’s name to defend their own territory, whether it be ideological or moral.

    In the end, I also wonder if some trouble starts when we think too much about what people who try to follow the Christ in them should be called. There may be a time when those who identify as ‘Christian’ have to hand in their badges in order to more effectively allow the Christ in them to live and love in the world (alas what Dave Andrews wrote in his book, Christi-Anarchy)

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