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 Three Gay Marriage and Freedom of Religion

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I have little interest in the gay marriage or marriage equality debate. 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 the difference.

Christians have much bigger problems of their own to deal with. According to some reports, the divorce rate among evangelical Christians in the United States is equal to or higher than the divorce rate of non-Christians when we would surely expect it to be significantly lower (Andrew Comiskey, Strength in Weakness, InterVarsity Press, Illinois, 2003, p 51).

So what do many evangelical leaders do about this moral crisis in the church? They are obsessed with stopping gay marriage. What do they think Jesus meant when he told his followers to take the plank out of their own eye before they take the speck of dust out of someone else’s (Matthew 7:1-5)? If Christians are really so concerned about preserving the institution of marriage, they should lead by example and work on preserving their own marriages.

Banning gay marriage will not prevent the break-up of heterosexual marriages. Unless your husband or wife is going to leave you and marry someone of the same gender, gay marriage is not a threat to your marriage. On the other hand, if that is the case, then banning gay marriage is not going to solve your problems.

It is a bit late for Christians to complain that gay marriage brings the institution of marriage into disrepute. Heterosexuals have already done that. In Australia the rot arguably began with the introduction of no-fault divorce in the 1970s, making a marriage contract the only contract one side can potentially break without any consequences, i.e. pretty meaningless.

According to a 1994 survey 83% of heterosexual couples were monogamous, while only 2% of gay couples were (Strained Relations, p 17). A 2013 study of gays in New York revealed that 58% of gay couples were monogamous. One of the contributors to What Some of You Were wrote,

“Just before I came out of homosexuality, a friend and I sat down one Saturday afternoon, and had a very sad but enlightening conversation. We came to the conclusion that we knew no-one who was in  a faithful relationship. The couples we knew had sex with others as well as their partners.” (Christopher Keene (editor), What Some of You Were, Matthias Media, Kingsford, 2001, p 24-25)

If gays do not like the idea of “forsaking all others”, why do they want to get married? I suspect some of it has to do with the status of saying you are married in  a society which looks down on single people. That is how some heterosexuals think. Also, if gay marriage were legalized, I suspect some gay couples would get married to make a political statement, rather than hoping to live together monogamously for the rest of their lives. Anyone, straight or gay, who gets married, should do so for the right reasons.

Fear of loneliness appears to be a more legitimate reason why some gays want to get married. They are not looking forward to be lonely old men. Heterosexual single people face the same problem. In earlier posts here and here I discussed how many churches do not treat single people very well. Being married with a family is held up as the ideal while single Christians are regarded as second class Christians with something wrong with them. I argued that this is idolatry because their worth and value is based on their marriages and families, not their relationship with and worship of Jesus. If Christians want gays to remain single and celibate, they need to work on their idolatry and stop rubbing their marriages and families in the faces of single people (straight or gay) in the church and treat them with greater respect and value and appreciate the sacrifice they are prepared to make in obedience to God.

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Opponents of gay marriage, such as David van Gend in Stealing from a Child, The Injustice of Marriage Equality, say they are concerned about the impact of gay marriage on the children in the marriages. Regardless of whether or not they are right, there are many more children in abusive and dysfunctional heterosexual marriages. If Christians are so moved about the well-being of children, they should be making more noise about the plight of those in heterosexual families and not single out gay parents.

In Australia some Christians want a referendum on gay marriage. This is strange since according to every opinion poll it is clear that the majority of Australians have no problem with gay marriage. We would lose.

I actually think the best thing that could happen for the church is for the government to just get it over with and pass a gay marriage bill. Christians need to wake up and realise we are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever really were one, and more and more of the population no longer share our values. Instead of using politics to turn back the clock, we should be thinking about how be witnesses and communicate the Gospel in a post-Christian society which is increasingly hostile to our values, that is, the sort of environment in which the early church began and thrived and in which many Christians in Third World countries live today.

If Christians want to see society transformed and return to Christian values, they need to be transformed themselves and first repent of the sin in their own lives (2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 5:13, 7:1-14).

A referendum on gay marriage would be a lose-lose situation  for the church. Even if we did “win” and the referendum were defeated, the debate would have been so nasty (there are bigots on both sides), that what is truly important, the Gospel that we can all find forgiveness in Jesus, would have been discredited.

The arguments against gay marriage are often not defences of traditional marriage. They are warnings about how legalizing gay marriage will be used to infringe on the human rights and freedoms of those who do not believe in it. There are concerns that if gay marriage were legalized, Christian ministers would be forced to marry gay couples.

However, the recently released report of the Senate Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill points out that under the proposed gay marriage legislation, ministers will  have the right to refuse to solemnise gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs (p 10, 51, 57). Churches can already refuse to marry people. The Catholic Church does not usually marry divorcees. Some churches only marry their own members. No one has been complaining to the Anti-Discrimination Board.

Organizations, established for religious purposes, would also have the right to refuse to participate in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs (p 55-56). However, civil celebrants do not appear to have the same right to refuse to conduct gay marriages (p 58-63).

Christians in Christian organizations will have the right to refuse to participate in gay marriages, but it looks like Christians in non-Christian and secular organizations and businesses will not have the same right to refuse to participate in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs.

In the United States there have been several cases of bakeries, which have been operated by Christians, which have been sued by gays because they did not want to bake a wedding cake for their gay wedding (Ryan Anderson, Truth Overruled, Regnery, Washington DC, 2015, p 85-104). These do not appear to have cases where they refused to serve gays at all. They presumably would have no problem baking a birthday cake for a gay man. (How would they know?) They do not want to bake a wedding cake for them because that would appear to be condoning gay marriage.

In an article “Would you bake a cake for a gay wedding?” Karl Faase says,

“The problem in the current combative culture of the west is that the gay lobby has an agenda in approaching service providers. They are not seeking a service or product but rather they have the motivation of entrapment. Many in the gay lobby are trying to make “examples” of people who refuse them service due to what they believe are bigoted and intolerant worldviews.”

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Christians do not have a monopoly on bakeries. A gay couple could find plenty of bakeries who did not have a problem baking their wedding cake. This controversy begs the question, would you marry someone (straight or gay)  who goes out of their way to find someone who disagrees with them and seeks to entrap them and drag them before the courts?

In July 2016 SBS reported that Darrin Morgan of Human Rights Advocacy Australia had complained that some churches, which held their services on school grounds in NSW, had been preaching “homophobic” sermons, i.e., they think homosexuality is wrong. The offensive passages included, “God’s good sex within marriage is between one man and a woman.”

It looks like he did not attend these churches and heard these sermons. He went through their websites, looking for something to take out of context so he could get them into trouble.

In 2015 the Catholic Church in Australia  issued a pastoral letter “Don’t Mess with Marriage” to Catholic schools explaining their opposition to gay marriage. Some parents were offended at the idea that their children received Catholic teaching at the Catholic school they sent them to.

The booklet said about marriage, “their union made them whole” (p 7). This is a strange thing  for (supposedly) celibate priests to say. They are basically saying that single people, like themselves, are incomplete. As I have argued here and here, we do not to be married to be complete; we need Jesus (Colossians 2:10).

It also said, “The Catholic tradition teaches that every human being is a unique and irreplaceable person, created in the image of God and loved by Him. Because of this, every man, woman and child has great dignity and worth which can never be taken away, This includes those who experience same-sex attraction. They must be treated with respect, sensitivity and love.

The Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. We deplore injustices perpetuated on people because of religion, sex, race, age, etc.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for understanding of those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies for whom this may well be a real trial. “They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” ” (p 3)

In September 2015, Martine Delaney, a transgender woman, lodged a complaint with the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner demanding that the Catholic Church apologise for issuing the booklet. She later withdrew the complaint.

I would have thought the booklet sounded reasonable and tolerant. It argued that we should try to co-exist and show compassion to those we think are wrong, but this is too intolerant for some gay activists. To just believe someone is wrong is considered hateful, intolerant and homophobic. As mentioned earlier before, some people want a referendum on gay marriage, but how can there be a referendum when one side is not allowed to express its views?

More examples of gays using anti-discrimination legislation against Christians in the United States can be found here.

In theory, all these problems should be unnecessary. It should be possible for supporters and opponents of gay marriage to co-exist, stay out of each other’s way and just live and let live, rather than go out of their way to get other people into trouble.

I do not believe in gay marriage, but I am in the minority and my belief is not oppressing anybody. I am not stopping them from doing anything.

If you know one bakery would not want to bake you  a wedding cake, just avoid them and take your money to one who will.

If you don’t want your children to hear Catholic teaching about marriage, you probably should not send them to a Catholic school. It’s just a thought.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s when some Christians called for the censorship of books or films which they found offensive or blasphemous, the response was if you don’t like it, don’t read it or watch it. Now, calls for censorship seem to come more from the politically correct Left, rather than Christians, but the advice is the same.

If you do not want to hear a sermon supporting traditional marriage, don’t go to that church, and don’t go through their webpages to find something you don’t like.

We live in a multicultural, pluralist society. People believe different, irreconcilable things. They think other people are wrong. Deal with it.

This is pretty much what supporters of gay law reform in Tasmania said they wanted in the 1980s and 1990s. They said they were not hurting anybody else so what they did in private was nobody else’s business. There was talk about “Police looking in people’s bedroom windows”. They didn’t, but it was good rhetoric.

Since then, there has been a transformation in the gay rights movement, from being libertarian in philosophy into something more authoritarian. They do not want to co-exist and live and let live; they increasingly want to control what is said and silence dissent. This is what opponents of gay law reform warned would happen back in the 1990s when they talked about the “Gay Agenda”.

They may think they are doing the right thing and suppressing intolerance and homophobia, but not only are their definitions of intolerance and homophobia unrealistic,  a lot of bad things in history have been done by people who though they were doing the right thing. The Stolen Generation of  Aboriginal Children in Australia was carried out by people who really thought they were helping. Many totalitarian governments believed they had the truth on their side and they were doing the right thing and protecting society from evil influences when they suppressed human rights.  Taking away basic human rights of other people, freedom of speech and freedom of religion, is not likely to produce the greater good.

Some might suggest that this is “payback” for the way Christians treated homosexuals in the past. However, as I argued here in the 1980s the majority of those opposed to gay law reform in Tasmania were not Christians. Moreover, Christians did not use the law against homosexuals in the 1980s the way that homosexuals use it today against Christians. During the gay law reform debate Christians did not go around reporting homosexuals to the police. During the years of debate in Tasmania I only ever came across two people, neither attended a church, who actually wanted to see homosexuals charged and imprisoned. In 1994 Rodney Croome handed himself into the police with a statutory declaration describing his “illegal” activities, but he was not arrested. Homosexuals could not get arrested for homosexuality in Tasmania even when they tried.

In my previous post I quoted the Penguin Macquarie Dictionary saying that tolerance does not mean not believing other people are wrong. It means accepting and not using power to prohibit those you think are wrong. When you compare their actions, it looks like Christians in the 1980s were more tolerant towards homosexuals than homosexuals are towards Christians today.