Well, the hot topic around Australia at the moment is that of same-sex marriage which is due to be debated in the Federal Parliament at the behest of the Green party. So is it an inevitability? And how well is the church handling the debate? Here’s my take …
By the way – just a quick preamble. Whilst in this post I adopt the position of ‘dispassionate commentator’ on the debate between the church and the gay & lesbian community, you should know that I am strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. I have my reasons well thought out, but that’s not the subject of this article.
1. Is it an inevitability?
In a worldly sense, you’d have to draw the conclusion that if not this week or this year, same-sex marriage is going to become law in this country. At a spiritual level however, I’m not quite so sure.
It’s interesting how this one issue – more than any other – is the flash point between the church and so-called mainstream, secular thinking.
It seems that two titan ideologies – secularism and Christianity are slogging it out to the death in the public arena. The problem I have with that, is that the secularists don’t realise that they are, in fact, representing an ideology. They appear completely unaware of the historical place of their argument, thinking that what they’re arguing is a self-evident truth.
And the Christians on the other side of the fence, seem to have lost sight of the fact that they aren’t peddling an ideology at all (even though for the main they’re behaving as though they are).
Christians – whether society likes it or not – are speaking God’s truth into this world and the objective of that is to save, rather than to win. There’s a big difference.
But of course this isn’t just something that’s happening just in the natural realm. The battles being fought in the spiritual realm are far more fierce than the ones on this earth!
2. How well is the church communicating its message?
To put it bluntly, in my view the mainstream church is doing an appalling job at communicating God’s truth. Here’s what causes me to come to that conclusion:
- - I’ve listened to and watched a good deal (but not all) the church presenting its argument in the court of public opinion that we know as ‘the media’. The communicators that we’ve trotted out have, by and large, been unimpressive. There are some notable exceptions – Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby is one – but the church leaders I’ve seen and heard have left me totally unconvinced - and I already agree with them!!
- - The church is not answering the questions that the “reasonable man on the Bondi tram” (if I can use that quaint old expression) is asking him or herself (more on this immediately below), and …
- - Given the moral bankruptcy of some of the large, traditional denominations in the eyes of our community (arising out of their own sexual abuse scandals and the apparent complicity of some church leaders in systemically covering them up) the secular mind is asking itself - Why should I listen to them anyway?! (In an age where public opinion is shaped by 8 second media grabs, it’s convenient and relatively straightforward for opponents of the Christian message to tar all of us with the same brush – by implication making all Christians complicit in the deplorable deeds of some).
So – what are the questions of the average punter in the street, that I don’t think we – the Church – are answering effectively? Here are the main ones:
- - Why should a minority of Christians be able to foist their clearly outdated morals on the rest of the country through legislation?
- - In any case, what consenting adults do is really up to them. Why would you deny us/them these basic rights and freedoms that you’ve enjoyed for centuries?
- - How can you run the family values line (children need a mother and a father) when for centuries the church has overlooked terrible family practices?
- - Is a child really better off with an alcoholic father and an abused mother, than two loving gay or lesbian parents?
- - And anyway, how can you Christians be such narrow-minded bigots when you claim to follow this Jesus who preached love and tolerance?
Combine our failure to effectively and decisively address those questions, with the moral bankruptcy of brand Church in the eyes of many Australians, you can see why it’s going to be a struggle even to be taken seriously, let alone to win the debate.
3. What’s the most powerful thing Christians can do?
In any case, even if we were able to find one or two Christian leaders with a strong moral standing in our community, combined with such a high order of communication skills so as to be capable of swinging the debate, do we really think that that would silence the opposing side? Really?
Here’s what I struggle with. We Christians can be so intent on winning, that we think that we have to take out an ever bigger baseball bat with which to whack the other side over the head … and in so doing we forget the command of Scripture that …
Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim 2:25)
In short, we can become so intent on winning the debate and securing the outcome that we know to be right, that our role in proclaiming the Gospel of Grace takes back seat. We behave as though it’s all up to us, and that God has no role whatsoever to play in this.
When all along, the most powerful thing we can possibly do is to pray. Should we engage in the debate? Sure. Absolutely.
But if our hands were tied, and our mouths taped closed – we would still capable of the single, most powerful thing that we can do.
4. If it does happen, is it really the end of the world?
So – let’s race forward to the worst case. Let’s imagine for a moment that same-sex marriage, within a few years becomes law. Is it really the end of the world?
Did things just get harder? Yep.
Could we be banned, by law, from proclaiming the truth? Yep.
Could Christians then face persecution for standing up for what they believe? Yep.
Seems to me there’s nothing particularly new in any of that. The church in China is thriving under oppression. Would we wish it upon ourselves? Of course not, but if it happens, it seems to me that there’s a pretty reasonable chance that God would be capable of dealing with those eventualities too. And as much as Christians may be wringing their hands over the possibility of losing, and of same-sex marriage becoming law, my hunch is, that God isn’t!
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:21-27)
So … what game are we actually in? Winning … or saving?