Being a Christian in Same-Sex Marriage Australia

 

61% of Australians have just voted “Yes” to same-sex marriage. This should have been no surprise. All the opinion polls showed that the majority of Australians supported gay marriage. I really do not understand why so many Christians wanted a referendum on the issue when it was obvious we were going to lose. Perhaps they were putting their hope in the tradition of Australians voting “No” in referenda.

It seems that many Christians have been under the delusion that Australia is a Christian nation and there is still a silent majority out there which still shares our values. The plebiscite result should make it clear this is not the case.

Christians in Australia can no longer feel they have legitimacy or the moral high ground because they are part of the majority. Most Australians do not agree with us. They are not trying to be immoral or anti-Christian when they support gay marriage. They think it is normal. They do not understand what the problem is. What the Bible says means nothing to them. Many not only just think we are wrong, they think we are immoral, dangerous intolerant bigots. Hopefully, losing the plebiscite will wake Christians up and get them thinking about what they are going to do about it.

Christians cannot really lose because God is always sovereign. The Bible says that God “is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth  and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:32). Even the Antichrist can only act because God lets him (Revelation 13:5-7). Nothing happens in politics unless God lets it happen. The same-sex marriage plebiscite only succeeded because God in His sovereignty allowed it.

However, God is not on our side. His goal is not to support our family values political agenda. His goal is for us to draw near to Him and become more Christ-like. Losing the plebiscite may be the way for that to happen. Like every other bad thing that happens to Christians, we should see it as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and become more Christ-like (James 1:2-4).

Opponents of same-sex marriage were concerned that it will result in restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. According to the Senate Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, churches and Christian organisations will be able to refuse to participate in same-sex marriages, however the rights of individual Christians in secular businesses and organisations is less clear (p 51-63). It does not look like a Christian working in a bakery will be allowed to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding which they do not believe in.

I can understand that a Christian might not want to bake a cake for a gay wedding because they believe it is against the Bible. However, Christians need to remember this goes both ways. If we want the right to discriminate and not support gay marriages because we believe it is wrong, we should not complain if supporters of gay marriage want to discriminate against us because they believe we are wrong and do not support “equality”.

On the other hand, would a Christian baker refuse to bake a cake for a heterosexual wedding where the man has left his wife so he could marry another woman (Matthew 19:9)? Christians need to be consistent in their conscientious objections, rather than just single out gays.

If Christians in the wedding industry find they have no choice but to act against their beliefs, then perhaps they may have to get out and find other careers. There are some careers and industries which Christians cannot be a part of  because they are hostile to Christian beliefs and values. Maybe the wedding industry has to be added to that list.

Despite all the assurances to the contrary, I believe same-sex marriage will result in restrictions on freedom of religion and speech as it has already  in the United States and the United Kingdom. Many Christians in the West seem to have a “how dare they persecute us” mentality – a Christian version of the victim mentality of the politically correct.  They assume we are supposed to keep fighting for our rights. This really does not gel with Jesus’ teaching, that we should go the extra mile for those who oppress us (Matthew 5:41).

It is the norm for Christians to experience persecution (John 15:18-25, 2 Timothy 3:12).  The freedom which Christians in the West have enjoyed is abnormal. When we compare the dying, complacent materialistic churches in the West with the thriving persecuted churches in Third World countries, it is apparent that our freedom has not been good for us. Quite frankly, a bit of persecution would be a good thing, even though any persecution we experience over same-sex marriage would still be trivial compared to what Christians in Communist and Third World countries have suffered.

If others call us bigots and try to take away our rights, we may get angry and want to fight back (or is that just me?). Instead, we should see persecution as an opportunity to draw near to God to draw near to God to give us the strength and grace we need to forgive and love our enemies, which does not come naturally to us. Jesus suffered and died for the sins of those who want to take away our rights. He loves them just as much as he loves us.

Many years ago I read about how Christian parents in the Soviet Union had to send their children to state schools where they were exposed to the atheist anti-Christian curriculum. When the children came home, their  parents would “unteach” the propaganda they had been taught during the day and teach them the truth of the Bible. In the media and government schools we are seeing the normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism. Christian parents cannot rely on their churches and their children’s programs to counteract this. If Christian children are exposed to one hour at church a week and twenty or more hours of screen time a week, it is obvious which side is going to win the battle for their minds.

Christian parents will need to take a greater role in training up their children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), passing on their Christian values and beliefs to their children and giving them an identity founded in Christ.

This means more than  just telling them homosexuality is wrong. The real threat to the faith of Christian children is not sexuality or gender issues. It is middle class materialism and idolatry. Over the years I have seen numerous people, who have grown up in Christian homes, get jobs, get married, make money, buy a house and then decide they have what they need to be successful and complete and they don’t need God anymore. They may have believed that Jesus died for their sins, but deep down they never truly believed that Jesus made them whole and  satisfied their deepest needs. They believed these needs were met by success and materialism. Once they got these things, Jesus became irrelevant. Middle class Christians’ middle class values  are a much greater danger to the spiritual welfare of their children (and their parents) than the normalization of homosexuality.

Some Christians are probably hoping that God will judge Australia for its support for gay marriage. If God does decide to judge Australia for its sins, I doubt support for gay marriage will be on the top of His list. Christians should not be so eager to see God judge others, because the New Testament warns that judgement begins in the house of God, that is, the churches (1 Peter 4:17). If God is going to judge Australia for its sins, He will start with the churches.

Any discrimination and persecution which Christians experience as a result of same-sex marriage will only happen because God allows it. We should see it as God’s discipline motivated by His love for us (Hebrews 12:6, Revelation 3:19). If God has to discipline us, we should consider what sins is He disciplining us for?

As I have discussed here, many homosexuals, including Rodney  Croome, came from Christian backgrounds. Some Christians, who struggle with homosexual temptations, turn to God for the strength and grace to resist them, and as a result they have a deeper relationship with God. Unfortunately, they appear to be a minority. Many are more likely to feel that the church and God have failed them and cannot help them, so they embrace their temptations rather than struggle against them.

One could argue that the “rise of homosexuality” has been the fault of the churches. I do not mean because the churches did not fight harder for more laws against homosexuality. The churches should have proclaimed that we are all sinners, straight or gay, we are all struggling together against sin and we can all find forgiveness, wholeness and new life in Jesus. Instead, many churches have insisted on radical repentance and transformation for those struggling with homosexuality, but at the same time they do not address the sins of heterosexual immorality and middle class materialism in the churches. We have driven them out and now they have come back , embittered, to get their revenge.

The culture wars are over. We have lost. This can be a good thing (Romans 8:28). As I have said here, Jesus did not give his disciples a political agenda called family values which we are to impose on society. Jesus gave us a Gospel, good news, that even though we are all sinners, we can all find forgiveness and new life in Him. We have become an unpopular minority, like the early church started out in the Roman Empire. They transformed society by showing love and forgiveness to those who despised and persecuted them. We should follow their example.

 

 

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Why I won’t vote in the gay marriage plebiscite

From September 12, the Australian Government will be spending $122 million on a voluntary non-binding plebiscite on gay marriage. I believe that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6) and the Bible says homosexuals are sinners (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11), along with everyone else (Romans 3:10-12, 33). However, I have decided the most Christian thing I can do is not to vote at all in the upcoming plebiscite.

Those Christians and conservatives, who want a referendum or plebiscite on gay marriage, seem to assume that there is still a silent majority out there who agree with us and we would be vindicated in a referendum. All the opinion polls show this is not the case. It looks like we are going to lose. Even if we did win, the next ALP Federal Government is going to introduce gay marriage legislation so it will all be for nothing. The majority of Australians have no problem with homosexuality and gay marriage and they think we are intolerant bigots, no better than racists, for opposing it.

This does not mean we should change what we believe in order to accommodate and appease the prevailing social narrative and say that homosexuals are no longer sinners. We are all sinners. If I say homosexuals are sinners, I’m saying they are just like me.

The challenge for Christians is to keep proclaiming the eternal truths of the Gospel, that we are all sinners and we can all find forgiveness and new life in Jesus, to a post-Christian culture which no longer shares our values and thinks we are intolerant and even dangerous.

This is much the same situation which the early Christians faced in the Roman Empire. They showed grace and forgiveness to those who hated and persecuted them and eventually they won over the Empire.

A lot of the case against gay marriage is not so much a defence of traditional marriage, but is concerned that gay marriage will be used to attack freedom of speech and freedom of religion, which I have discussed here and here. Jesus told us to treat others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). If I don’t want gay activists to use the law to deny my rights, then I should not use the law to deny them their “right” to be married, which is one reason why I won’t vote at all.

While many Western Christians seem outraged at the threat that they may be persecuted, our persecution is trivial compared to what Christians are already experiencing in Third World countries. They overlook that the Bible tells us that it is normal for Christians to be hated and persecuted (John 15:18-25, 1 John 3:13). It is an opportunity for us to become more Christ-like (Luke 6:22-23, Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-5).

I agree that traditional moral values and the institution of marriage are in trouble, but lobbying the government to pass laws is not the Christian solution. In the 18th and 19th centuries there were periods of moral decline similar to our own. The churches responded by repenting of their sins, praying and God brought revival, and social and moral transformation (2 Chronicles 7:14). When the West experienced a similar moral decline in the 1960s and 70s, evangelical Christians in the United States responded, not by repenting, but by forming the Religious Right and sought to impose Christian values through legislation. The reputation of the Gospel was damaged severely.

Jesus told us to take the plank out of our own eye before we take a speck of dust out of someone else’s (Matthew 7:3-5). According to some reports, the divorce rate among Christians (including nominal Christians) in the United States is equal to or even higher than the divorce rate among non-Christians (Andrew Comiskey,  Strength in Weakness, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 2003, p 51), and 68% of Christian men, including 50% of ministers, view pornography regularly. Instead of repenting and dealing with the sin in the churches, many Christians are more interested in legislating the morality of non-Christians. Do we really think Jesus is impressed by this?

I don’t want to vote for gay marriage. I don’t believe in it and it won’t necessarily won’t make difference. Gay couples can already register their relationships and enjoy all the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples. They just cannot call their relationship a marriage. Any gays who want to get married are presumably already living together and doing it. I assume they are not saving themselves for marriage. 10 years after gay marriage had been legalized in the Netherlands, only 10% of gays had got married (Bill Muehlenberg, Strained Relations, Freedom Publishing, Melbourne, 2011, p 99). Gays make up about 2% of the population, so in practical terms nothing much should change if gay marriage were legalized and around 0.2% of the population had a gay marriage. If the media did not go about it, we probably would not notice.

At the same I do not want to vote against gay marriage. Jesus did not give his disciples a political agenda called family values which we are to impose on others. He gave us a Gospel, good news that we can all find forgiveness and new life in himself. It is more important that non-Christians hear and understand this, than it is that heterosexuals maintain their monopoly on marriage. However, they do not want to hear this because they think we are bigots.

As I have discussed here, many Christians have made idols out of their marriages. Their sense of self-worth and wholeness is not based on their relationship with Jesus, but on being married. They expect gays to remain single and celibate while single adult Christians are regarded as second-class Christians who have something wrong with them. This may explain why some Christians do not seem to care if the Gospel suffers as long as gay marriage is banned.

Maybe, it would be better if Christians lost the gay marriage debate for the sake of the Gospel. More Christians would wake up to the fact that we are no longer a Christian nation, we do not own the culture, we need to repent of our sins, rather than pass laws against others, and work on showing humility and grace to an increasingly hostile post-Christian society so they will understand that we are not bigots if we say we are sinners who need forgiveness and new life.

So I won’t vote at all.

More of views on Christians and homosexuality can be found here.

 

 

Christians and Gays Part Five Conclusion

This is a photo of Andrew Marin, a Christian, hugging a gay man in his underpants at a gay pride parade in 2010, as part of the I’m Sorry Campaign  where Christians held up sign at gay pride parades apologizing for the way the churches have treated homosexuals in the past.

Some Christians might be offended at the suggestion that we should apologize to sinful homosexuals. The fact, that they are sinners (like everyone else) is irrelevant if we need to apologize to them (Matthew 5:25). Christians have judged and condemned them and demanded that they repent often without dealing with the sin in their own lives. Many Christians expect gays to remain celibate  while looking down on single people in the church and treating them as second class Christians.

I have argued here that the underlying cause of homosexuality is idolatry, expecting to find wholeness through homosexuality rather than relationship with Jesus. However, many Christians are just as guilty and find their wholeness and value through their heterosexual marriages and also their careers, success and possessions. This is also idolatry.

I also wrote here that most homosexuals appear to have grown up in the church, yet we have turned on them for their sin while not dealing with our own. Most Christians would not condemn people for their non-homosexual sin the way they condemn homosexuals. I have argued here that their attitude is not so much based on the handful of passages in the Bible which deal with homosexuality. They are cultural and psychological in origin.

I wrote this series of posts hoping to encourage real tolerance on both sides, that is, tolerating those we think are wrong and not hating them and wanting to take their rights away. A few weeks ago the Bible Society in Australia had a similar idea. They released a video showing two members of the Liberal Party, Andrew Hastie, a Christian and opponent of gay marriage, and Tim Wilson, a gay supporter of gay marriage, having a polite civil discussion on gay marriage while drinking Coopers beer.

I would have thought this was true tolerance and diversity in action, showing that people can still be respectful and get along, even if they think the other person is wrong – the assumption that our liberal democracies are based upon.

Instead, this was too much for some supporters of gay marriage. Some hotels in Melbourne and Sydney said they were going to boycott Coopers. A few days later Coopers issued an apology (for being part of a video which supported tolerance, respect and free speech) and proclaimed their support for gay marriage.

When I think about all the misery and suffering, which alcohol has caused Australia, health problems, sexual assaults, domestic violence, addiction, car accidents and vandalism, I find it hard to take hotel owners seriously when they claim to have a social conscience.

While writing this post I learned about the case of Felix Ngole, an African Christian  student doing a Masters in Social Work at the University of Sheffield, who was expelled because he had posted comments opposing gay marriage on Facebook, which only his friends would have seen.

Twenty years ago politically correct postmodernism warned that belief in moral absolutes leads to intolerance because it leads to supressing other points of view. Critics would argue that just because one believes in moral absolutes, one does not necessarily oppress others. One can show true tolerance towards them.

Now, a new generation is more likely to do what postmodernism warned about and seeks to supress those they believe are wrong. they may be right – real homophobia and other forms of discrimination are dangerous and harmful. However, those, who carried out the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Salem witch trials, the Communist purges and the Inquisition, all believed they were right and they were protecting the community from dangerous and harmful people and ideas.

A previous generation boycotting businesses because they think their owners have harmful anti-social beliefs

I believe that in the future in the name of tolerance and diversity there will be greater restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This does not mean that Christians should keep fighting the culture wars. The persecution which some Christians have experienced over gay marriage is still minor compared to what many Christians in the Third World suffer. The early Christians had a different attitude to persecution. They went “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His shame” (Acts 5:41). This is a striking contrast to the “How dare they persecute us” attitude and victim mentality  which many Western Christians seem to have.

In the New Testament suffering and persecution were considered a good thing. It was a sign of God’s love for His people, an opportunity to depend on God more, to grow and become more Christ-like (Romans 5:1-6, 2 Corinthians 10:7-10, Hebrews 12:5-12, James 1:2-8). This is what is truly important, rather than having a comfortable and successful life or whether or not heterosexuals can keep their monopoly on marriage.

In the Roman Empire it was technically illegal to be a Christian. Christians were considered dangerous and socially irresponsible and disruptive because they would not sacrifice to the local pagan gods  and risked bringing the wrath of the gods down on the community. It is similar to the way today many consider Christians to be harmful to society because of their “intolerance”.

The early Christians did not respond with an ancient version of the culture wars.  They showed grace and forgiveness to the pagan society which despised and persecuted them, so much so that the pagans actually wanted to join this hated minority and eventually they won over the Empire.

I am not suggesting that this is easy. it is unnatural. Part of me still wants to fight the culture wars, but arguing with our political opponents is not going to advance the Kingdom of God. It is not easy to forgive and love our enemies and persecutors. We need to turn to Jesus for the grace and strength to do this, like we need to turn to Jesus  in our struggle with other sins, including sexual temptations. Jesus suffered and died for their sins just as much as he did for ours. He wants to see them saved too so we can all spend eternity together in Heaven. That must be our goal too, rather than putting all our energy into opposing gay marriage.