The huge postal return for the Same Sex Marriage survey puts paid to the lie that the Australian public didn’t really want this to happen, and were just as happy to let the government sort it out.
According to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, some 75 per cent, or almost 12 million eligible voters, have cast a vote. That’s some buy in from the general public, especially given the “Get on with it!” calls of many, and the assertion that most Australians just wanted to sort out other issues.
What it shows is that Australians are not laissez faire about practical ethics and issues of substance.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure it was the way forward, and I certainly think that the Government had backed itself into a political corner and was using this to extricate itself, but the numbers are telling.
Sociologically and politically it’s a rejection of Big Government and the idea that we should leave such decisions to those in power and who, apparently, know better than the rest of us. And it’s also a rejection of the idea that democracy is on the nose and that people think it’s not the preferred method of government. Faced with the option not to vote on this, in a country where state and federal electoral voting is compulsory, people have chosen to vote. And for that we can be grateful.
So where is the vote headed? I think it’s pretty much what the numbers were before the Yes and No campaigns started in earnest; probably a 60/40 split in favour of the Yes vote. And that’s an admirable holding of ground by those “in the No”, given the huge push by big business and celebrity and sporting culture to publicly back Yes.
But then again, isn’t it a little naïve to think that a mere slogan or campaign can shift someone’s deeply held beliefs about marriage? It’s surely the height of arrogance to think that late modern consumer culture can bend and twist what people have deeply believed and practiced across time and space.
Money thrown at either side was a waste and probably assumed that many were on the fence on this matter. I think the swinging voter is in a small minority, nowhere near large enough to shape this along the lines of an ALP versus LNP election in Australia, in which the odd few in a number of electorates determine who governs.
Perhaps that’s what the pollsters, political junkies and mainstream media don’t get; when it comes to deep seated identity issues in our country people aren’t likely to be swayed by logos, catchy tunes and “right on” celebs. Marriage is too big and too important in our eyes for that, despite the thirty or so years of deconstruction by the sexual revolution.
In the end it’s all coming down to what happens after the vote. Here are the future possibilities and where I think it will land.
- A win for the NO vote. Highly unlikely if the polls are any indication. It’s not Brexit and Trump, the gap is far bigger than either of those two bolters suggested. If the NO does get up, don’t expect that to be the end of it because progressive politics does not work that way – the revolution is a permanent revolution, hence there will be angst, anger, reprisals etc. So any NO win will be pyrrhic and temporary.
- A win for the YES vote. The most likely outcome. The vast majority of federal MPs will then ensure that same sex marriage becomes law in Australia. Some will abstain on the conscience and some will vote no regardless of the postal survey. There will be some crowing, but not, I suspect that much, but there will certainly be a narrative that some 40 per cent of the country is on the wrong side of history (or late progressive modernity’s idea of history anyway)
- A YES vote will soon be claimed as the first staging post of a wider agenda (it is already being labelled as such by pro-SSM advocates), in which the new sexual ethic that includes all of the gender identity matters will be promoted and promulgated through government agencies using government resources. That’s what is happening elsewhere in other parts of the Western world, so I assume it will happen here.
- A YES vote will ensure that any persistent and public NO voice in defiance of this will be viewed as transgressive. Steps will be made to ensure it is either dampened down, privatised, or legislated away. The two views of marriage will not be allowed to co-exist in the public square. That is also happening in other parts of the Western world. Test cases will be made by activists to push organisations outside the protective umbrellas of the church (and even under it) to line up in order to receive any form of government sponsorship and funding.
That’s as neutral as I can articulate the various scenarios. The existential and emotional response to the above is altogether different. And what it means for the church in Australia is fairly simple. It will expose the schism that is already there – a schism that is less about definitions of marriage and more about authority and its source.
The ecclesiastical winners (those denominations or churches that publicly pushed YES or see no problem with it, view it as an integral aspect of human rights, or mount a biblical case for all aspects of the new sexual ethics) will be rewarded with secular acclaim, and punished with shrinking ageing demographics. So it will be a short term victory in that sense.
The losers will face the opposite scenario. They will be viewed as on the wrong side of history, as reactionaries, and will be censured in the public square at every opportunity by those within their denominations on the “winning” side. Conversely they will be rewarded, should they both remain faithful to the gospel message, loving but not affirming, with growing congregations that are, ironically, younger. That’s always been the pattern: Liberal theology wins the culture and the politics and loses the church.
So there you have it. It’s just over a week until the postal vote survey closes. And despite all the dire predictions our country did not turn into an antipodean version of the apocalyptic Children of Men.
But even if it were to do so, the miracle of new birth at the end of that stunning movie simply shows that history is never written, ultimately, by the powerful in this age who hold the strings of government, but by the seemingly weak and helpless; by the miraculous arrival of a newborn baby whose presence stills the shrieking and shouting of the war – actual or cultural – whistling overhead.